- Ed Feulner (Heritage Foundation): $947,999
- Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute): $705,711
- Christopher Demuth (AEI): $675,000
- James Thomson (Rand): $549,047
- Jessica Matthews (CEIP): $480,320
- Richard Haass (CFR): $448,000
- Craig Kennedy (German Marshall Fund): $450,000
- Edward Crane (Cato Institute): $438,750
- John Hamre (CSIS): $414,327
- Strobe Talbott (Brookings): $412,500
- Robert Reischauer (Urban Institute): $346,286
- Jason Grumet (Bipartisan Policy Center): $332,555
- John Podesta (CAP): $244,904
- Ted Halstead (New America Foundation): $86,771
Based on my own research, here is the salary for other heads of think tanks that weren't listed in the National Journal (2009/2010 figures; as with the above list, some of these people are no longer with the organization or in the same position):
- Richard Haass (CFR): $889,098 (base salary)
- James Poterba (NBER): $525,615 (base salary)
- Lee Hamilton (Wilson Center): $368,750 (base salary; in 2009 he also received a $100,000 bonus)
- Merrick Carey (Lexington Institute): $359,000 (base salary)
- Frederick Kempe (Atlantic Council): $355,000 (base salary)
- C. Fred Bergsten (PIIE): $252,035 (base salary)
- Herbert London (Hudson): $235,000 (base salary)
- Ellen Laipson (Stimson Center): $221,662 (base salary)
- Stephen Flynn (CNP): $216,346 (base salary)
- Lawrence Mishel (EPI): $212,290 (base salary)
- Jonathan Cowan (Third Way): $210,120 (base salary)
- Nathaniel Fick (CNAS): $186,748 (base salary)
- John Cavanagh (IPS): $78,205 (base salary)
According to Simply Hired, the average think tank salary is $56,000. According to Salary List, the average think tank salary is $47,136. According to Indeed, the average think tank salary is $66,000. It appears, however, that many of those calculations are not very accurate due to the algorithms used to define "think tank."
The NonProfit Times had an article in its February 2012 edition outlining the recent NonProfit Times/Bluewater Solutions Nonprofit Organizations Salary & Benefits Report. [Most think tanks are considered non-profits.]
That survey notes that the average non-profit CEO base salary in 2011 was $110,599. The average bonus for non-profit CEOs was 5 percent of base salary.
As a comparison, the President of the United States gets $400,000 per year and the Vice President gets $230,700 per year.
As another comparison, rank-and-file members of the House and Senate get $174,000 per year.
According to Salary.com, the median salary for a typical lobbyist in the US is $98,875.