Quickie: USAID as a “check-writing agency?”

337/365: The Big MoneyImage by DavidDMuir via Flickr

Ken Dilanian of USA Today has an interesting piece on the CEO compensations of American aid groups. (h/t to RL for the tip). These aid groups are for-profit companies and tax-exempt groups paid by USG to deliver foreign assistance programs.

USA TODAY reports that it “examined total CEO compensation of the 10 largest recipients of foreign aid grants and contracts that also derive at least 70% of their revenue from U.S. taxpayers. Each one receives a 501(c)3 charitable exemption from federal taxes.”

Number #1 in the USA TODAY list is American Institutes for Research (AIR); its president was paid $1.1 million in 2007, the highest in the group.

Number #2 is the Academy for Educational Development; its president was paid $879,530 in total compensation in 2007, tax records show, a figure that includes “catch-up retirement restoration payments.”

Number #3 is the Research Triangle International whose 2007 chief executive compensation was $658,844.

The report quoted Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the subcommittee that funds foreign aid: “It conflicts with most people’s notion of what a non-profit organization is about when they’re paying themselves salaries that are several times higher than what a U.S. Cabinet secretary would earn.” This leads the senator to conclude that “an understaffed USAID has become “a check-writing agency.”

To put this in context salary-wise, I’d like to note that the President of the United States earns $400,000 a year. The vice president’s annual salary is $221,100. Secretary of State Clinton earns $186,600. So the top aid CEO’s salary is almost three times that of President Obama; almost five times Vice President Biden’s salary and almost six times that of Secretary Clinton. I don’t know at what level the USAID Administrator is paid, but the top level of the executive schedule in 2009 is paid $196,700 a year.

What might be the compensation of a president of a third world country where these aid groups operate? Philippine President Gloria Arroyo earns about $1,333.33 a month or approximately $16,000 a year. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe’s salary was reportedly pegged at US$20,800 for 2009. Oh, wait — I’m not sure it’s wise to mention Fruitcake Bob, given that he has a fondness for expensive parties; remember that $1.2 million birthday bash and his shindig earlier this year? [Oh, frack! too late now!]

Read the whole thing here.