This week, President Trump's administration lost another of its key officials this week with the departure of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. In his place, Trump has appointed John Bolton, a name familiar from the Iraq War, and, more recently, regular Fox News commentary. But Bolton has held plenty of other jobs over the course of his career, many of them lucrative.
Bolton's biggest claim to fame to date had been his role in intelligence during the administration of President George W. Bush. He was appointed undersecretary of state for arms control in 2001, which would shortly thereafter entail focusing on the supposed weapons of mass destruction being built up in Iraq. As Zach Beauchamp outlines at Vox, Bolton would claim in 2002 that the "Axis of Evil" — denoting Iraq, Iran, and North Korea — was not just a figure of speech. According to Bolton, it described a real supposed flow of illegal arms and intelligence between the three countries.
According to PayScale, most salaries at the State Department hover around the $100,000 mark. There are some positions that come with a bigger paycheck (executive directors can make upward of $300,000). Very few fall much below six figures. Therefore, it's safe to assume Bolton was making about $100,000 (at least) in his role as undersecretary of state.
Four years later, Bush nominated Bolton for the position of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. But his confirmation hearings in the Senate revealed a past littered with unhappy and unsettled coworkers. Carl W. Ford Jr., former intelligence chief at the State Department, called Bolton a "bully."
Bolton had also been accused of pressuring his former employees to make their evidence reports fit his worldview. According to Ford, when Christian Westermann, the chief bioweapons analyst at the time, would not sign off on Bolton's assessment that Cuba was running a covert bioweapons program, Bolton yelled at him and attempted to have him fired.
As a result of his contentious hearing, Bolton was not confirmed as U.S. Ambassador — then. But Bush went on to appoint Bolton during a recess, and he served in the position through December 2006.
In 2017, the minimum salary for a U.S. ambassador was $124,406, but that can go up. However, an ambassador cannot make more than the vice president (current salary — $230,700). So, during his brief stint as ambassador, Bolton likely made around $100,000 but probably less than $200,000. Not bad.
It's Bolton's other, non-government jobs that have been the most lucrative. He currently runs two Super Pacs (John Bolton Super PAC and John Bolton PAC) and has already announced $1 million of planned spending on a single 2018 election in Wisconsin. Republican big spender Robert Mercer is a major donor to Bolton's Super Pac. Bolton's PACs reported a combined $3.6 million in cash as of late February.
Analysis of 2012 compensation for Super PAC organizers revealed they take home a significant paycheck. Roll Call found that conservative PAC organizers were "pulling in at least a half-million, and several make into the millions." And it made no difference if the candidates the PACs were supporting won or lost. To take one example, Rebecca Burkette — who ran a Super PAC associated with Newt Gingrich's failed presidential bid — took home over half a million dollars over the 2012 election cycle.
While it's unclear how much Bolton was paid for running his Super PACs, it's safe to assume it was well into the six figures.
Bolton was also senior fellow at the right-leaning think tank American Enterprise Institute. While his exact salary remains unreported, Chron writes that "top jobs at think tanks routinely run six or even seven figures." He's also served on the board of Diamond Offshore Drilling, as well as TRACON Pharmaceuticals.
Though he may not be a billionaire like the president he's about to work for, Bolton is in all likelihood a very wealthy guy.