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Annual Tab to Run White House: $1.5 Billion

By Mike Tighe   |   Tuesday, 18 Nov 2008 03:08 PM

Anyone who considered the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to win the White House this year staggering had better sit down before picking up the tab to keep the whole Executive Mansion running: A new book estimates it at a tidy $1.5 billion-plus.

Author Bradley H. Patterson, who has worked at the famed Pennsylvania Avenue address for three presidents, cobbled together insider access and decades of D.C. experience for “To Serve the President: Continuity and Innovation in the White House Staff,” which the Brookings Institution Press describes as “the most complete look ever at the White House and the people who make it work.”

It is a follow-up of sorts to Patterson’s 2000 book, “The White House Staff: Inside the West Wing and Beyond,” a 500-page tome that counted 5,900 people working in 125 offices for the White House. The new book, at 450 pages, is smaller, but the staff has grown, with Patterson’s tally reaching 6,574 people in 135 offices.

Patterson, whose 14 years of staggered service in the White House include working under Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, broadens the payroll perspective beyond the mansion’s nearly 100 policy offices to include Air Force One, Camp David, the first lady’s staff, and others.

He considers those extended wings of the White House as part of the whole staff, and he “parlays access to George W. Bush's key staff into an authoritative account of the operations, offices, and people of the complete White House team,” Brookings says.

Thus, the book provides “a larger and more inclusive picture than the one painted by other analysts,” the publisher says. “Patterson is the first to pull together figures from all of these offices, and he estimates the total costs for fiscal year 2008 to be over $1.5 billion.”

The book’s 2000 predecessor provided the inside scoop on duties ranging from the monumental, such as helping to craft a State of the Union Address, to the mundane, such as helping to create the pre-Thanksgiving pardon for the first turkey.

“To Serve the President,” retailing for $34.95, includes similar details about the seemingly anonymous folks who work far from the glory of the high-profile presidential offices, and what they do to keep the Executive Mansion running.

Patterson “emphasizes that the U.S. government is not a machine, but a group of people doing the best they can, under challenging conditions, to produce a better life for their fellow citizens,” Brookings says. “His book illuminates their roles, celebrates their service and paints an eye-opening picture of how things really work on Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Patterson, who also has worked in the State and Treasury departments, as well as the Peace Corps, also wrote the popular “Ring of Power” in 1988.

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