Obama speechwriter among administration’s top earners

By A. James Memmott

July 6, 2009 at 7:38am

Speechwriters of the world rejoice.

The list of White House salaries released last week shows that Jon Favreau, President Barack Obama’s speechwriter, is one of the top earners at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Favreau’s $172,000 salary puts him right up there with the members of Obama’s inner circle, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Senior Adviser David Axelrod.

Jon Favreau & Jim Messina
Jon Favreau & Jim Messina

The only person earning more is Dr. David E. Marcozzi, the director of public health policy, who is paid $192,934 a year.

Favreau’s place on the pay scale is especially impressive as he’s only 28 years old and six years out of the College of Holy Cross, where he majored in political science and graduated as the class valedictorian in 2003.

While in college, Favreau was an intern in Sen. John F. Kerry’s Washington office. After graduation, he went to work on Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign as a speechwriter.

After Kerry’s defeat, Favreau found himself in Washington without a job. As he told The New York Times, he was “broke, taking advantage of all the happy-hour specials (he) could find in Washington.”

Gibbs, who was then the communications director in Obama’s senatorial office, recommended that Obama hire Favreau as a speechwriter.

According to a Holy Cross website profile, Obama interviewed Favreau, asking him why he had become interested in politics.

Favreau replied that he could trace his interest back to the time when he volunteered in a welfare office in Worcester, MA, while in college. Hearing that, Obama offered him the job.

The process of putting together Obama’s speeches involves give and take, Favreau explained in the Holy Cross profile.

“We sit together for a half an hour,” he said. “He talks and I type everything he says. I reshape it; I write. He writes; he reshapes it. That’s how we get a finished product.”

Obama’s success as a candidate and as an orator has raised Favreau’s profile, so much so that he may no longer be confused with the actor Jon Favreau, the star of Swingers and the director of Iron Man.

Jon Favreau, the speechwriter, does have a Hollywood connection, however, as he is reportedly dating Rashida Jones, the daughter of musician Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton.

A graduate of Harvard and an actress, Rashida Jones played Karen Fillipelli on The Office and is now starring in Parks and Recreation.

Favreau is not the only Obama campaign speechwriter who found work at the White House.

Ben Rhodes is earning $102,000 a year as deputy director of speechwriting. Sarah K. Hurwitz earns $85,000 per year as a senior presidential speechwriter.

And Adam P. Frankel earns $65,000 per year as a senior presidential speechwriter.

Like Favreau, Frankel worked on the Kerry presidential campaign as a speechwriter.

Frankel also has a link to a previous Democratic administration, as he worked with Theodore C. Sorensen, John F. Kennedy’s speechwriter, on his memoirs.

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