For former presidents, the job may be over, but the money continues to roll in.
The Congressional Research Service has released a study on salaries and benefits that former commander-in-chiefs collected during the 2012 fiscal year. The allowances, however, are far from uniform.
Former president George W. Bush received the most –about $1.3 million. He’s followed by Bill Clinton’s $978,000, George H.W. Bush’s $842,000 and Jimmy Carter’s $518,000.
So why the difference?
The benefits are a result of the Former Presidents Act, a 1958 federal law that provides a number of lifetime benefits to ex-presidents. On top of an annual pension equal to the pay that the head of an executive department official would be paid (about $200,000 per year), former presidents are entitled to a number of other perks.
That includes a “suitable office space, appropriately furnished and quipped,” travel funds, personnel compensation, mail privileges, office supplies, and Secret Service protection. The office space rental payments—at a location of the former president’s choice for the rest of his lifetime—were among the costliest items. Clinton had the highest rental payment cost for his 8,300 square office in New York City ($444,000). George W. Bush’s 8,000 square-foot office in Dallas was close to that amount ($401,000).
As the CRS report points out, the pension and benefits paid to George W. Bush and Clinton in 2012 comprised 62.5% of all benefits paid to the four living ex-presidents and widows of former presidents.
Some members of Congress have argued the FPA is not strict enough and gives money to presidents who are clearly not in dire financial straits. Others say ex-presidents remain public figures and should be provided benefits and pensions to allow them to perform duties after their terms are over.
“Among the options that might be considered are placing a spending cap on office space for a former president, mandating that a former president's office be located in owned or leased federal office buildings, placing a cap on the square footage of a former president’s office space,” the report says.