Departing members of President Bush’s Cabinet will not have to scour the classifieds to find plum jobs. Secretary of State Colin Powell can revive a lucrative book-writing and public speaking career. Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson will be highly sought in the corporate world because of their background and connections.
From Agriculture’s Ann Veneman to Veterans Affairs’ Anthony Principi, others probably will have their pick of jobs. Book deals and the lecture circuit are among the options for former Cabinet members. So, too, are seats on corporate boards, work as consultants and television commentators, as well as positions at law, lobbying and investment firms and at universities.
“Seven figures wouldn’t be a problem,” said Tom Donohue, president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby.
Cabinet secretaries’ assets include management skills, broad experience and unrivaled contacts in government and overseas, Donohue said.
Former President Clinton literally wrote the book on creating a high-paying career after decades in government. The two-term Democrat reportedly earned $10 million to $12 million for his best-selling autobiography, “My Life,” and can command $100,000 per speaking engagement.
Among the departing members of the Bush Cabinet, Powell comes closest to Clinton in earning potential, said Betsy Berg, vice president and head of the lecture department at the William Morris Agency in New York.
In the 1990s, after Powell retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the former Army general reportedly earned at least $6 million for “My American Journey,” his best-selling autobiography. He also took in up to $100,000 per speech and served on numerous boards of directors, including those of corporations, charities and universities.
Berg said it is hard to say whether Powell find similar success this time.
“But I think he’s a great name and people will be very interested in him,” Berg said. “He was really one of the most bankable people, I think, that ever came out of office.”
Based on their background with domestic security, Ridge and Thompson also will be in demand for books and lectures, she said.
Access to the president and valuable information increase the demand for former Cabinet secretaries. Add experience running state governments – Thompson as Wisconsin governor and Ridge as governor of Pennsylvania, for example – and they become attractive to corporations as possible chief executives in the business world, Donohue said.
Even if they are not cut out to head corporations, Cabinet secretaries are highly marketable in business because they know how to navigate the system, said Ann MacCarthy, chairwoman of the suburban Chicago-based International Association of Corporate and Professional Recruitment.
Corporate boards are one option. Retired Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, who stepped down as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Bush’s first year in office, serves on at least three, including the board of Anheuser-Busch, which paid at least $55,000 a year.
Such posts are also a way for former Cabinet members to raise their profiles to land more speaking engagements. “So where you don’t make your living on the board, you keep up the networking and the star power to be able to do other things,” MacCarthy said.
Law and lobby firms often prize former administration officials simply for the value of their titles in bringing in new business, said Wright Andrews, a longtime Washington lobbyist.
Former Internal Revenue Service commissioners have “always been hot commodities because it legitimizes and gives great prestige to your firm, unless the commissioner was a dud,” Andrews said.
Given their employment options, former Cabinet officials are less likely than former members of Congress to become rank-and-file lobbyists, he said.
Several officials who left during Bush’s first term quickly found new sources of income.
Former NASA chief Sean O’Keefe is Louisiana State University’s new chancellor, more than tripling his $158,000 federal salary. Former CIA Director George Tenet is reportedly getting at least $4 million for his upcoming memoirs. Christie Whitman, one-time administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, started a consulting firm and has written a book on politics.