David Cameron's communications director Andy Coulson is being paid £140,000 a year, the government has said.
He tops the list of special advisers whose names and pay have been released by the coalition.
The number of advisers has dropped from 78 at the end of March this year to 68.
The second best paid is the PM's chief-of-staff, Edward Llewellyn, on £125,000. Among other key aides, Steve Hilton gets £90,000 and Gabby Bertin is paid £80,000.
The Cabinet Office has also announced special advisers will have applications for new jobs scrutinised by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments for two years after leaving the civil service.
Their gifts and hospitality will be published every quarter and any leaving to stand for parliament will not get severance pay.
The ceiling for special advisers' pay is £142,668, ensuring they do not earn more than Mr Cameron.
A senior Conservative source has confirmed that Mr Coulson's contract with the party has been terminated - he earned £275,000 as chief of communications for the Tories.
Mr Coulson, a former editor of the News of the World, will receive no additional income or fees on top of his new salary, the Cabinet Office said.
The third-highest paid special adviser is Kate Fall, the prime minister's senior aide, who gets £100,000, followed by Jonny Oates, Mr Coulson's Lib Dem counterpart, on a salary of £98,500.
Richard Reeves and Lena Pietsch, who work for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, are awarded £85,000 and £80,000 respectively.
Also among the special advisers listed is Willie Rennie, a Lib Dem MP who lost his seat at the election. He is not drawing a salary for his work at the Scottish Office.