Thursday, January 20, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Freedom of Speech Doesn't Mean Speeches are Free

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 20, 2011

So you want to have former Gov. Bill Richardson speak at your next Kiwanis Club luncheon or your kid’s upcoming Girl Scouts banquet?

You got $25,000 to $40,000?
I don't think Richardson charged anything for this speech.

That’s Richardson’s price range, according to the website of his speaker’s bureau.

In my last interview with Richardson, he told me that he had signed up with his old agency, the exclusive Washington Speaker Bureau, and planned to earn part of his income by giving paid speeches. “I’ve got several lined up,” he said.

But he didn’t say then how much he’d be paid.

On the WSB website, Richardson is listed as Level 5 with a fee scale ranging from $25,00.01 to $40,000.

That’s more money than a lot of people in Santa Fe make in a year. And it’s a lot of moolah for a guy who frequently included self-effacing laugh lines in his speeches, making fun of himself for being long-winded.

He’s hardly the most expensive orator listed with WSB. Other Level 5s include former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, retired Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka, journalist Bob Woodward, MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews and former White House aide and CNN commentator David Gergen.

When Gergen spoke in Santa Fe in 2009 to the Council of State Governments-West, he was paid $33,000 plus travel expenses.

But some command higher fees than Richardson. Level 6 speakers — whose fee scale is $40,000.01 and up — include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Nightline host Ted Koppel, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Nixon speech writer, actor and game-show host Ben Stein.

Richardson might take some satisfaction in knowing that his fee is higher than another former United Nations ambassador, John Bolton, who as a Level 4 gets between $15,000 and $25,000 per speech.

And there are some WSB clients — including former President George W. Bush, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan — whose fees aren’t listed.
For an extra $5,000 Richardson
 will create a magic circle of light.

“Fees vary based on event location,” their pages say.

The Richardson videos: According to the website, among the topics that Richardson can speak on are American politics, Asia, China, alternative energy, environmental issues, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and national security.

There are several videos on Richardson’s WSB page in which Richardson speaks about specific issues.And there’s a 4-minute introductory video in which he repeats his oft-told tale about his “psychological battle” with Saddam Hussein; talks about horseback riding with his wife; and discusses his two major heroes, John F. Kennedy and Mickey Mantle.

(Sorry, the WSB doesn't let you embed their videos on other sites.)

A lover of the arts: In the video, Richardson says that beneath his “rough exterior” and image as a guy who likes baseball, football, steaks and “American stuff,” he’s actually a lover of modern art and poetry.

He said that’s “a side that probably nobody associates with me.”

But he’s wrong.

The United States Conference of Mayors does. In fact, the group is bestowing the 2011 Public Leadership in the Arts Award on Richardson today in Washington, D.C.

The real question is, if he gives an acceptance speech for the award, will he charge his new fee?

Speaking of speeches: I haven’t done the math on how much the state paid for Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State address Tuesday, but I suspect it’s well under $25,000.

But one thing to consider for Republicans, pundits and late-night comics who have poked fun at President Barack Obama for using a teleprompter:

Martinez used one for her 38-minute speech Tuesday, a spokesman confirmed.