October 10, 2011

What's the deal with the public speaking circuit?

The Washington Post writes about the public speaking racket:
On his last day as secretary of defense, Robert M. Gates received the vaunted Medal of Freedom from President Obama. 
Less than a week later, he received another coveted prize: the keynote speaker gig at the annual National Grocers Association convention in Las Vegas. 
In official Washington, there is an afterlife, and it’s a crowded, cacophonous place. Called the public speaking circuit, this D.C. Elysium is bound by the same transactional laws as the realm that preceded it. But instead of political parties, it is governed by speakers bureaus that promise visibility to those who sign up. In the past 30 years, a proliferation of bureaus has promoted, booked and enriched former lawmakers, candidates, consultants, Cabinet members, political reporters and gadflies. 
“Let’s say you are secretary of something — there are two ways you are going to make a really good living: a lobbyist or a speaker, or a combination of the two,” said James Carville, the political consultant and a client of the Washington Speakers Bureau, the agency that represents Gates. 
In Washington, said Carville, who has given about 3,000 speeches over the past 20 years, relevance is currency, and the speaking circuit “keeps you in.”

I really don't get the public speaking business, even though I've been wondering about it for years. I've seen James Carville enough for free on television for one lifetime. The guy looks like he's just burst out of John Hurt's abdominal cavity (see video). As for Robert Gates, yes, I could well imagine paying him a load of money to give a speech if I were the Emir of Kuwait or somebody like that, to encourage the others, but if I were in the grocery business? 

I could see wanting to go to a talk by some reclusive personality who is never on television, but, of course, the opposite is true: everybody wants to crowd into a giant hotel ballroom to see -- in person! -- some guy they've seen on CNBC a hundred times. It's like how baseball franchises used to worry that if they put their games on TV, nobody would pay to go to the old ballpark anymore; but when the Cubs put all their home games on TV, it turned out that everybody then wanted to pay to go to Wrigley Field because they'd seen it on TV. 

If something's not on TV, it's not really real. Fortunately, we now have hundred if not thousands of TV channels. 

From the speaker's perspective, flying around the country giving speeches seems like it would get old pretty fast. Is Obama going to be happy doing this for several decades? For Obama, the worst case scenario is that he fails of re-election, then spends decades flying around the world first class giving speeches. His best case scenario is that he gets re-elected and then spends decades flying around the world in his own Boeing Dreamliner giving speeches. No wonder he seems kind of moody lately...

111 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure he could make even more money writing books.

Dennis Mangan said...

It's all driven by tax-deductible expenses for going to Vegas on business. Nobody pays their own way to a grocers' convention, and when they get there, they need an important speaker to make it all seem suitably business-like.

Eric said...

I always assumed these gigs are just a way to get around laws against bribery - either pay for services rendered or an attempt to buy influence. You could have worse people in you corner than Carville if you wanted to, say, make it harder for your employees to unionize.

The Chinese paid Bill Clinton $300k for a single speech when he left office. The Chinese didn't care that much what he said when he was in office, but while he was president he did inexplicably change his position on China's MFM status.

Anonymous said...

Obama will be reelected in 2012. I said it here first.

Anonymous said...

If something's not on TV, it's not really real.

This is basically Baudrillard's and other postmodernists' thesis:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperreality

You could save a lot of time trying to read and understand Baudrillard by just remembering your sentence here, Steve.

Anonymous said...

James Carville is evidence of the Reptilian thesis.

Whiskey said...

You missed Obama's downside.

PRISON.

He's facing jail time, along with Jarrett, Axelrod, Holder, and probably Michelle over Fast and Furious (send Guns and drugs to Mexico's narco-terrorists so you can get gun control passed). He's facing jail time over Solyndra (pay off campaign donors for green boondoggles in a failing venture) and many other scandals.

What makes him different from say, Clinton, is that unlike Clinton the good times are not rolling (people forgive a lot if you include them in the dough). AND unlike Clinton, he did not include other party members and Republicans in deals and such, much less Republican interest groups. The only Republican interest groups that Clinton went after were the Pro-Life folks and the NRA. Otherwise it was co-opt/spread the graft city. Obama said "I won." And kept it all to himself.

Therefore his choice is not make $100 million in a decade after office like Clinton, it is jail and serious jail along with his cronies or "victory" by emulating Alberto Fujimori.

beowulf said...

Nahh, books/public speaking is like the music business. The bands don't make money on the albums, that's just to get the free advertising on the radio. They make their money touring. To that end, this speakers bureau website is fascinating.
http://www.washingtonspeakers.com/speakers/

You can search by fee range to the left. Who knows how much they really get-- do conferences pay "retail" or do they negotiate these fees down; how often are there gigs available, especially for the sad sacks in the $15,000 and under group?, etc. Steve, this is definitely a field to look into.

There's a range of topics you could speak authoritatively on. Of course, I'd keep your most interesting work off the topic list. Like Chinese restaurants, who always keep the dog entrees off the English menu, you can be sure that if the host wants you to keep it real, he'll let you know.

Varud said...

I think Obama has a real chance of being Grover Cleveland II. Given how shitty the economy is, it's remarkable how much the guy's personal popularity is keeping him afloat in the polls.

RKU said...

Well, look. If you say or do the wrong thing while in office, the speakers' bureaus won't represent you, and rich people won't pay you. But if you do the right thing, lots of $$$$....

I seem to remember that about 20 years ago, the Washington Monthly ran a big cover story about how scandalous it was that journalists and columnists were being paid many tens of thousands of dollars---as much as their regular salary---for briefly "speaking" to various special interest groups. But no one cared and now everyone seems to do it. That's one reason the DC area has become so affluent these days...and the rest of the country isn't.

Didn't Blair leave office in Britain disastrously unpopular with the electorate? But since he'd remained popular with the right people, he earned millions within a year or two. In fact, I think he and his wife even bought some huge mansion a little before he left office, even though they were completely broke, because they knew they soon wouldn't be. And I think a most of his new wealth came from "speaking fees."

The most attractive sorts of bribes are those that are plausibly deniable even to one's own self.

Anonymous said...

It's all driven by tax-deductible expenses for going to Vegas on business.

I guess that explains slot machine gambling addict and S&M dominatrix client William "Bill" Bennett:

http://www.calicocat.com/2004/05/william-bill-bennett-client-of-las.html

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Step 1: President (senator/representative/secretary) does important favor for random global megacorp. Let's make up a name - something ridiculous and improbable like "Goldman Sachs" or "Morgan Stanley" or "Oracle."

Step 2: President (etc.) leaves office. No longer in a position to grant any favors.

Step 3: Random global megacorp pays president (etc.) kajillions to speak for a few minutes, shake hands, take pictures, meet a buxom new intern fresh from Carnegie Mellon, etc.

The point of all this? It sends the message to current president (etc.) that we scratch the backs of those who scratch ours. When it's legal. When it's just "speaking fees" for someone famous. Of course a stand-up, awshucks, "most honest administration ever" kinda guy like, say, Bill Clinton would never do any such thing, so it's all just theoretical. (Take a look at that list: $31 million in 5 years, over $2.6 million came just from Jewish groups. 3 engagements for Goldman Sachs.

It's not just about the guy you're paying. It's about the guy who replaced him. Some day very soon an ex-president is going to become a billionaire from ex post facto paybacks, speaking fees, directorships, etc. Maybe it'll be Obama...

Anonymous said...

The real worse case for Obama is that he makes Hillary VP and wins the election...

Anonymous said...

@9:21 pm "Obama will be reelected in 2012. I said it here first."

Yeah, sadly, I think you're probably right.

My prediction is, Obama wins by a hair (i.e., not a strong enough margin to exclude doubts about election fraud, but his victory is eventually upheld); GOP makes further gains in House and Senate, but not quite enough for a veto-proof majority; as a result, nothing much gets done, and everybody gets to stay angry all the time.

But count on the GOP to roll over like a bunch of dogs for Obama's insane next-term Supremes nominees.

Anonymous said...

"He's facing jail time over Solyndra (pay off campaign donors for green boondoggles in a failing venture) and many other scandals."

And who's gunna testify agin' him, the people he pardons right before leaving office?

This country seriously needs a Constitutional amendment banning last minute pardons, and granting Congress the power to override any pardons at all.

Steve Sailer said...

"It's not just about the guy you're paying. It's about the guy who replaced him."

Okay, that makes sense, but how does the National Grocers Association get the memo that, say, the government of Turkmenistan wants Robert Gates paid off? And why do grocers show up to hear him address them?

Maybe grocers don't quite get the joke. They look at Robert Gates and say, "Here's the kind of guy that Goldman Sachs would pay a lot of money to for a speech, and Goldman Sachs has a lot of money, and we want to have a lot of money, so we should give Gates a lot of money." It's sympathetic magic?

sabril said...

Maybe the president of the national grocer's association is getting some kind of kick-back.

Anyway, I predict that Obama will eventually go on the Arab payroll like Jimmy Carter apparently did.

eh said...

I really don't get the public speaking business,...

It boosts a group's profile, and perhaps increases the effectiveness of its lobbying, when they are addressed by VIPs. Even if they pay the VIP to be there. That part of it -- i.e. why the VIP is speaking -- should be easy to understand.

Maybe some VIPs also have interesting things to say; that possibility should not be excluded.

Robert Holmgren said...

Actually I get the grocers wanting to hear Gates. One of the forces creating the Arab Spring was the cost of food. If I'm a grocer I might want the lowdown on what Obama's thinking would be relative to my industry.

Steve Sailer said...

Around 1978, the Rice U. Board of Governors paid Henry Kissinger a bundle of money to come do a meet and greet with them and he threw in a speech to the students. So, when he stopped to take questions, I jumped up first and asked him some softball question, which he just crushed out of the park. (He is extremely witty.)

That was fun. So, I'm glad the Rice governors decided to stroke their egos by paying for Dr. K to hang out with them so I could act like I was having a conversation with him. So, maybe I'm just spoiled. But who else has Kissinger's Dr. Strangelovean glamour?

neil craig said...

I think it is a matter of people wanting to touch fame. The close equivalent to going to a Rolling Stones concert - not because they are going to do something new but because you have seen it all before on TV. If that were not so the most popular speakers would be those the media don't touch, or those who have something not previously publicly said - which would make global warming sceptics the top draw and Al Gore unemployable.

Obama's worst nightmare will be if he goes on the public speaking circuit and gets lower fees than Jimmy Carter.

Anonymous said...

Steve I think the reason you're having trouble with this is that you're approaching it too much from an economic rationalist point of view.

Your thinking is that, hey, President X did a big favor for Group Y. Group Y couldn't pay President X at the time, for obvious reasons. Why, now that President X is out of power, do they still follow through and pay him? When they could just keep the money since the favor is already done?

It's because the amount of money they're paying is absolutely peanuts compared to the amount they received as a benefit. If someone did a 100 billion dollar favor for you, are you really going to try to stiff them on a million dollars?

That's the truly scary part of all this graft, Steve. In order to get a million dollar kickback, you have to waste billions in taxpayer money. Look at Solyndra. 500 million down the drain to pay back a campaign bundler who raised a few hundred thousand. It would be so much cheaper for the taxpayer if they didn't have to try so hard to hide the graft.

Steve Sailer said...

Okay, but say Secretary Gates (and I don't have anything against him -- better Robert Gates than Doug Feith) does Exxon-Mobil a favor. Why do Safeway, Kroger, and Winn-Dixie pay him off by subsidizing his speech to the National Grocer's Association? There would seem to be a real free-rider problem here.

But that's what cultures are for (in part): to get around free-rider problems. So, how does the cultural concept work?

Henry Canaday said...

You have to realize how boring and wearying business conferences are to appreciate the appetite for famous people to speak at them.

One standard speaker’s slot is the motivational speaker, someone who has done something famously difficult who persuades the attendees that they can draw strength from his example. In recent years, I have seen this motivational speech given by Tommy Franks (actually a surprisingly good speaker), Lance Armstrong, Coach K of Duke and, most recently, by that guy who was trapped by a rock in a desert crevice and had to gnaw his own arm off to escape. The last one was a bit too motivational for me.

Anonymous said...

I always assumed these gigs are just a way to get around laws against bribery
bingo

Anonymous said...

Why do Safeway, Kroger, and Winn-Dixie pay him off by subsidizing his speech to the National Grocer's Association?
maybe people on the boards are on other boards and he did them a favor? Maybe some back door deal we'll never hear about? There's a lot, lot more that goes on in DC than what MSM lets onto.

Steve Sailer said...

One odd thing is the development of the stand-alone all purpose motivational speaking event. There's a billboard near me advertising the Get Motivated event on October 31st at the Staples Center featuring Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, Joe Montana, Bill Cosby, and Laura Bush. I can certainly a company hiring a motivational speaker for its own sales conference, or an industry organization for a conference, but I'm a little puzzled by an unaffiliated pay-your-own-way motivational speaking concert. Maybe this is for small businesses who can't afford to hire their own motivational speaker, so they send their employees to the Staples Center? Or maybe this is for fans of motivational speaking?

I don't want to make too much fun of motivational speaking because everybody needs motivation. In particular, sales is a psychologically brutal job. And if hearing Rudy Giuliani explain how he gave good press conference after 9/11 inspires you to make more cold calls, well, great!

Steve Sailer said...

Here's a question: Does James Carville provide Inside Dope or a pep talk? Or maybe he does both.

I mean, nobody expected Henry Kissinger to exhort us to be the best damn Rice students we could be. We were there just to bask in his world-historical glamour. But, if you are James Carville maybe you earn your keep by starting off with a few well-worn stories about what it's like to be an insider in the Oval Office and then finish by firing up the Dunder-Mifflin sales force. It doesn't sound easy to do both, so somebody who could would certainly earn his keep.

Carol said...

Remember you have a lot of state party conventions that need speakers who are sympatico, plus the larger county central committee fundraisers, then you have local party dowagers who bring in speakers ad hoc for one cause or another.

So retired generals, ambassadors, party hacks and anyone with upper echelon govt service can pick up some nice change on that circuit, starting at $5000 a pop and going up from there. It beats listening to the same old congressman again.

Meanwhile, I tried to get the party to hire Jonah Goldberg just as Liberal Fascism came out, but no go, no one had heard of him.

Anonymous said...

This country seriously needs a Constitutional amendment banning last minute pardons
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.
- john adams

Anonymous said...

@whiskey prison time? Delusional, as usual. By any moral and just standard Clinton s/b in jail and Blair, (and i mean this seriously) put on trial for treason, found guilty and sentenced to death.
Yet both are now worth close to 100 million.

That's what happens when you have a 'men with gold chains' elite, though Johnson too, should have been put on trial for treason (USS liberty)

Anonymous said...

I think it's a form of bragging rights, how companies use celebs to endorse their products.
What Gates has to say may not be relevant to grocery business but the grocery association can brag 'we are important enough to afford Robert Gates to speak to us'. It's like Gatorade or Nikes brags about the sort of people they can afford to pay to endorse their products. I'm sure this association would have preferred someone even pricier--maybe Colin Powell--, but it'll pay for what it can get.

On another level, it could be a form of bribery by other means. If a certain association needs a favor from a politician, why not invite him to speak for $100,000? Technically, it's not a bribery since he was paid for a speech. It's like when people pay $5,000 per plate at special dinners, they aint paying for the food.

Anonymous said...

I think oratory was a more important art before film and TV. Before modern media, politicians really had to go from town to town and speak before audiences for the masses to really get to know the man.
In a way, oratory before film/tv was more like theatre acting while oratory since advent of modern media became more like movie acting. Before close-ups of faces via film/tv and booming speakers via electricity, orators needed to speak in an exaggerated and theatrical way to convey bigness and importance. William Jenning Bryan was very much of this tradition. Even just to get heard, he had to speak loud and clear. A truly gifted orator had the means to speak loudly while seeming to be in self-control; he couldn't just scream shrilly. This is how theatre acting works. Actors must read normal dialogue but deliver them in a way that reaches to the back of the auditorium.

But with modern technology, even a politician speaking normally can be heard all over though microphones and speakers. In fact, one sounds rather ludicrous speaking theatrically via modern technology; it's like silent-movie-style acting looks wrong in talkies. Even without effort on the part of the speaker, film/tv and sound technology makes him big and close. Movie actors don't act theatrically unless it's intentionally exaggerated, like Pacino in SCARFACE where the whole thing was supposed to be ludicrous.

Maybe Obama understands this. Many black figures still work in the old oratory tradition developed before the rise of modern technology when men had to talk loud and powerful to be heard. But talking like that through modern technology can be too much. Farrakhan or Sharpton might seem charismatic from far away in a live audience, but when you see him close up on TV shouting and ranting, it's just ugly and gross.

Anonymous said...

One odd thing is the development of the stand-alone all purpose motivational speaking event.


Modern secular tent revival.

The new American civil religion according to Oprah.

Anonymous said...

Though many people involved with OCCUPY WALL STREET are idiots, this is a golden opportunity for the Tea Party to join together in protest to demand END THE FED and BRING WALL STREET CROOKS TO JUSTICE. Right and Left united against Wall Street, the devious funders of crooks of both parties, would be a game changer. But where is the Tea Party? Has it been bought by Wall Streeters? It's sickening to see Romney and Cain defend Wall Street.

Anonymous said...

Occupy Wall Street exposes the division between elite urban liberals and lumpen urban liberals. It's professionals vs waiters. GOP is playing it all wrong. Drive the wedge. Add fuel to the fire. Remember 2/3 of Wall Street money went to Obama in 2008.

Leonard said...

Dittoing those above pointing out the graft. I think you should also look at it from both the supply and demand sides.

Although paying someone $20000 for a speech seems high, for a large convention that might be a few dollars per attendee. Well, you can check out the price for the Feb NGC convention at their site (http://www.thengashow.com/), and the minimum is $400 per member -- and it goes up from there. So, they've certainly got money to throw around.

As for why they'd pay Gates -- well, as others have mentioned, the delayed payoff (to encourage the others) is one margin. But Gates himself is hardly a spent force politically. He certainly knows many people still occupying powerful positions. He can make introductions. And perhaps in future he will enter politics. He is only 68 years old -- that's only moderately old for a politician. Who knows, he might make a good VP for some Republican. Romney, for example, might want to nail down the "invade the world" vote -- and Gates offers that credibly.

As for what NGA would want politically: you need only visit their site (HQ in Arlington, VA) to see that they are a political organization. They do have other functions that would be of actual value to a grocer, i.e., their Fraudulent Coupon Alert page. But a good fraction of the stuff they are doing (at least according to website visibility) is lobbying the government.

Anonymous said...

Good article on who is rich

David said...

Reagan called it "the rubber-chicken-and-mashed-potato circuit" (before and after presidency). Two speeches in Japan in 1989 made the Gipper two million bucks.

Anonymous said...

Occupy Wall Street is fascinating. Until now, the leftist criticism of Wall Street had been muted cuz
(1) 2/3 of Wall Street money went to Obama (2) Obama filled his cabinet with Wall Streeters. (3) People like Soros funds the Left. NY, the liberal capital of America(if not the world)is also the home of Wall Street.
So, the Left, out of deference to Ny urban elites and Obama, kept mum.
If anything, it was the Tea Party that demanded no bail-out for Wall Street and called an end to the fed. The Left was very envious of this. It was like the Right stole the fire from the Left.

Now, the Left, channeling, Matt Taibbi, has finally taken on Wall Street, but they're walking on eggshells. The Left wants to be anti-Wall street but also pro-Obama. But Obama was bought and sold by Wall Street. And Democratic Party, though publicly supportive of the protests, drew more money from WS than the GOP did. They're all walking on eggshells.
If the Tea Party joins in on this, the eggshells are gonna break. While Occupiers yell 'death to Wall Street', Tea Party can yell 'the hell with Wall Street and their puppet Obama'. It is also a golden opportunity to see which conservatives are true conservatives or beholden to the financial tycoons. Romney, Cain, and etc must go. They are running dog lackeys of Wall Street.

Also, the Right can use this to draw a distinction between the deserving rich and underserving financial rich. This is such a golden opportunity, but the Right is messing up, as usual.

Anonymous said...

I think that nowadays it's only the small-timers who engage in open bribery. At the highest levels where politics and business intersect the notion that favors will be repaid is just assumed.

Some companies/industries do it more or less directly. Take a look at the list of Clinton speeches: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Warburg Pincus, Credit Suisse, etc. - these are all direct paybacks from an industry that grew filthy rich on Clinton's watch. Those are direct paybacks.

Then there are the WTF? speeches, like the ones he gave to Old York Road Temple Beth Am of Abington PA, Beth El Synagogue of St Louis Park MN, Temple Beth Avodah of Netwon MA, or Congregation Beth El Zedack of Indianapolis, who each paid him $125k. These were cases where someone knew someone (who knew someone...) and the goal was to be discreet.

The payback was made clear somewhere along the line. "So nice to meet you, President Clinton. We were debating whether to spend so much on such a distinguished speaker, but my good friend AVRAHAM RUBINSTEIN! over at AIPAC! [emphasis theirs] said it'd be more than worth the $125,000 we paid!"

Word gets around. Maybe Clinton meets with Obama and says "help these guys, they're good on their word," or probably Obama is paying attention already. The point is that it's basically legal bribery. Business interests are making clear to the current occupant that favors will be repaid.

The federal government today spends or redistributes almost $4 trillion, and passes regulations affecting trillions more. The $31 million Clinton collected in 5 years after leaving office, plus the couple hundred million he raised for his campaigns? Less than the annual advertising budget of a single Fortune 100 corporation, and worth a whole lot more.

Sheila said...

I'm not sure whose naivete amazes me more, those who think Obama will lose or those who think he'll peacefully relinquish the White House and its perks (i.e. White people's money).

Rainforest Giant said...

Maybe he could write a few more books. You know like Dreams from my Father and Audacity of Hope.

I think he will need a real break from all the stress of golf and vacation. Maybe he can use some of that speaking engagement money to fend off lawsuits from people killed by Fast and Furious.

Just curious, I know he can pardon folks for Fast and Furious but can he pardon himself? Does a pardon excuse people for civil damages?

Rainforest Giant said...

Oh, and Clinton declassified nuclear documents so that China could have them. Illegally declassified them by the way.

smarter than mitch said...

"I mean, nobody expected Henry Kissinger to exhort us to be the best damn Rice students we could be. We were there just to bask in his world-historical glamour."

I heard Kissinger volunteered to speak at Georgetown for free that year but had to wait 3 years or so before getting his chance to stand before that illustrious population of students.

Rainforest Giant said...

Whiskey,

Obama is not going to prison. Either the repubs will cut a deal that allows him to leave without jail or he'll hand out pardons like candy and classify everything.

Rita said...

They are called idols for a reason.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Mr. Sailer is right that it can't be payback. I think of what Pascal talked a lot about: that we live our lives to get conversation material, not to really do things. You go to Italy so you can talk about it later, not because you enjoy it or learn anything. Here, the grocer can come home from the conference and tell people, "I heard former Secy.o f Defense Gates speak the other day at a conference." "What did he say?" "Nothing much. It turns out he's really boring." But you've got a bit of conversation, and you will innocently convey the impression that you were within 50 feet of Gates, which is sort of neat.

Dutch Boy said...

These gigs are post hoc bribes.

Anonymous said...

I heard a former Clinton cabinet member speak at a professional gathering. At least it was marginally more relevant than Secretary of Defense speaking to grocers.

I don't believe there are complicated payoff schemes. People simply feel the need to invite a "wedding general". It's a phenomenon as old as human nature.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is for small businesses who can't afford to hire their own motivational speaker,
corporate version of america's self help addiction.

one of the women who died in james arthur ray's cult warrior weekend had paid 9000K to be there.. but ... was unemployed and had no health insurance.

..or could be jock execs who remember how great high school pep rallies were..

Anonymous said...

one other factor the - people just like to be close to celebrities.. i forgot the term, but there is belief that the aura of greatness (or saintliness ) rubs off on those around them. that's why people keeps vials of saints blood or follow a charismatic leader..

I can easily see execs paying ridiculous amounts to be around ex sports guys.. politicians i find a little suspect

beowulf said...

Steve, what did you once say about the marketing business, "you are not the customer"?

Would I pay to see Bob Gates speak (or waste time in Vegas listening to him instead of gambling)? No, but apparently some people would.

There are perfectly legitimate, non-corrupt reasons to hire former officials for speaking engagements, that's exactly what makes corrupt speaking fee/bribe situations risk-free legally.

The only way around this is to keep them on the payroll for life and ban outside income (retired federal judges get their full salary for life on the condition they can't practice law). Since that would never fly politically, the best you could do is extend two year post-govt lobbying ban (Congress has that, not sure about executive branch) to include paid speaking engagements.

Maya said...

So, if one hates the idea of touring, is getting a real job completely out of the question? Has that ever happened? I don't mean an actual real job, but something like a law professor at an Ivy school. Couldn't he now get paid even more than an average law prof? He could teach his old subject civil rights, and a few upper level electives to undergrads-about himself. "Race and Identity" for the sociology department, "African Americans in Politics" for the African American studies, "The culture of mixed Race" for cultural anthropology and so on. That would be an easy life with good pay and a lot of vacation time.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

But, if you are James Carville maybe you earn your keep by starting off with a few well-worn stories about what it's like to be an insider in the Oval Office and then finish by firing up the Dunder-Mifflin sales force.

I think that sums it up. It's a living, like being paid to stand around and get photographed at parties.

On another note, is there a lower-status occupation than local TV news anchor/reporter at this point? I stopped watching local news a long time ago. Just too pathetic and depressing, and I don't mean the news stories.

I wonder about actual prostitution creeping up the food chain as well. A few more years of the Great Correction, and I bet the word gets out among the money barons that the bidding has opened on a night with, say, Katy Perry.

Paul Mendez said...

As someone who plans association conferences, Big Name speakers are a way to show your conference is Big Time. Kinda like a potlatch -- if you can throw away 5 or 6 figures for a famous keynote, your conference MUST be the place to be.

Crazy, but it works.

Anonymous said...

similar vein why do certain consultants charges similarly outrageous fees in proportion to their service, why is daminien hirsts stuffed shark 'worth' 12 million (i sincerely doubt it is)

helene edwards said...

sales is a psychologically brutal job

A few years ago I was in Borders (rip) in downtown SF when I heard a guy on his cell phone say, "you know why I'm in sales? Because I love f***ing with people."

Anonymous said...

What is 'racism'?

bjdubbs said...

Maybe these speakers earn the money after the event, during the private dinner. If I run Safeway or Kroger, I get to have some beers and hear Bill Clinton stories from a guy who knows him well. Is that worth $50 from each of a 1000 grocers in Vegas? Probably. Some speakers are probably more full-service than others.

James Kabala said...

On Get Motivated:

http://www2.turnto10.com/news/2011/oct/03/providence-worries-about-events-traffic-woes-ar-762808/

dcite said...

"Obama's worst nightmare will be if he goes on the public speaking circuit and gets lower fees than Jimmy Carter."

I can't see him on the speaking tour, jail time aside. He can't speak without the TOTUS, and I don't think that will go over so well after the WH is rid of him. After all, when you pay to hear somebody, you think you might get something more true, more authentic, than what's scripted for them (so often) on tv. B.O. doesn't have anything much to say beyond being black(ish) and the being the first black(ish) president. Nothing else he's expert on or has exhibited any interest in. Might be enough for some audiences though.

All that said, it is "touching fame" that brings a lot of people to celebrity personal appearances.

bruce banner said...

Isn´t it still a bribe if you get paid after leaving office? I mean, it´s even more obvious if you think about it. Corporation X paid President Y a gazillion dollars in exchange for a favour which is more flagrant post facto.
That President Y is no longer in office only makes him easier to prosecute. Or should.

Richard Keefe said...

There's too much money involved to ignore.

Even a hack like the SPLC's Morris Dees pulls down between $10,000 and $20,000 a pop for his frequent speaking gigs (plus expenses) and not a dime of that shows up on the SPLC's tax forms.

http://wp.me/pCLYZ-3g

And that's on top of the $340,000 he pays himself out of the donation pot each year.

For that kind of dough I'd come up with something to say to the grocers too.

Sure beats working for a living.

Svigor said...

The guy looks like he's just burst out of John Hurt's abdominal cavity

Who-whom? Carville's a democrat, so we can be honest about him; he looks like he came down the river after Burt Reynolds to make Deliverance II. The only reason somebody isn't saying this every day is he's a Democrat.

As for Robert Gates, yes, I could well imagine paying him a load of money to give a speech if I were the Emir of Kuwait or somebody like that, to encourage the others, but if I were in the grocery business?

Assuming a significant portion of the money changing hands is ex post facto bribery, welshing on a debt is a good way to get it tacked on to the next transaction.

Ray Sawhill said...

I dunno, I semi-understand it on an instinctive level. There's something magic, or at least special, about being in the physical presence of a Giant -- someone who has Made History, or who's A Star, or who once Wielded Awesome Power, or something. And if that person shares some tales you haven't run across before, and reacts semi-spontaneously to the actual moment, and shakes some hands and takes some questions -- if he/she offers up something that feels fresh -- then everyone's happy. You've had a special, "real" experience. You've experienced a personal connection to History and Power.

Suits me.

Ray Sawhill said...

Hilarious and smart posting and commentsthread, btw ...

Anonymous said...

Well, stop by where I live, Sacramento, Calif. which must be a UNESCO World Heritage Site for this sort of thing. Every month it seems we've got our cow-town mini-Davos with Liddy Dole, Jen Granholm, Mark Levin, etc. I think once John Edwards's wife was, inexplicably, here. There is a finite supply of art/music celebrities (a cartel actually) so I guess this taps an additional stream of Masters of the Universe wisdom dispensers for us to worship. Clearly they manage to fit in a little political bidness while they're visiting

Anonymous said...

Its about buying political influence.

Svigor said...

"It's not just about the guy you're paying. It's about the guy who replaced him."

Okay, that makes sense, but how does the National Grocers Association get the memo that, say, the government of Turkmenistan wants Robert Gates paid off? And why do grocers show up to hear him address them?

Maybe grocers don't quite get the joke. They look at Robert Gates and say, "Here's the kind of guy that Goldman Sachs would pay a lot of money to for a speech, and Goldman Sachs has a lot of money, and we want to have a lot of money, so we should give Gates a lot of money." It's sympathetic magic?


The gov't of Turkmenistan tells them? Obviously there's got to be a trusted middle man somewhere. Or some kind of medium of exchange. The grocers show up because that's part of their duties (and per Mangan, maybe they're motivated by expense accounts).

If you're trying to say "yeah, but how does it get done, exactly," I agree, it's an interesting question, but I think it's safe to assume they "git er dun." It's like the favor bank. There don't seem to be many receipts exchanging hands and transactions don't go on ledgers, but it's real and people know to do favors and repay their debts nonetheless.

Okay, but say Secretary Gates (and I don't have anything against him -- better Robert Gates than Doug Feith) does Exxon-Mobil a favor. Why do Safeway, Kroger, and Winn-Dixie pay him off by subsidizing his speech to the National Grocer's Association? There would seem to be a real free-rider problem here.

1. Maybe Gates did the NGA a favor you don't know about.
2. Maybe there's a medium of exchange/middle man, and Exxon-Mobil is paying off the NGA's friends in return.
3. Maybe along lines of 2, there's a MoE/MM, and a big pot (or several less-big pots), with similar results.

Here's a question: Does James Carville provide Inside Dope or a pep talk? Or maybe he does both.

I'd be more interested in the former than the latter. You listen to him drone on and maybe say something interesting during his speech, to justify his fee, then you schmooze for connections after.

Also, just a random thought here, but remember that the favor bank isn't always about a liquid medium; making the right connection sometimes means being the right guy in the right place at the right time; e.g., our favor-monger happens to have an opportunity for a Grocery man such as your hypothetical self...

Jay said...

I've been to a fair number of bar association events with speakers of this ilk (no former presidents, however). With very few exceptions, these speakers are boring as heck and never say anything you can remember for more than 10 seconds.

The reasons why trade groups, etc., hire them are (1) the organizers need to show that they Did A Good Job; (2) a famous speaker attracts attendees because he at least seems to hold out the possiblity that he'll say something interesting; and (3) organizations want to show the world that We Are Important.

Elli said...

More insider back-scratching, I think, than the little people wanting to bask in the glow of someone they see on TV.

Money, influence, meetings, networking, appointments...

Colleges and universities often spend the big bucks on speakers. Most students aren't that happy to see one person receive in one night what it costs them to go to school for a year or too. But Dr. University President and Dr. Dean for Diversity have dinner with Mr. Big Name and Mr. and Mrs. Huge Donor, and Dr. President gets to sit on a corporate board with some foundation fundraising on the side when he retires, and Dr. Dean makes a sideways move to community relations or minority recruitment in the corporate world...

Steve Sailer said...

Maya's suggestion: A lot of famous pols get some sort of academic connection, but I think Dukakis actually did sort of settle down as a Kennedy school lecturer. As you say, it's not a bad life if your personality inclines that way, which is probably true of Dukakis.

Steve Sailer said...

"Steve, what did you once say about the marketing business, "you are not the customer"?"

I'm like the anti-customer. I should start a new product marketing research firm where the only interviewee is me. If I love your new concept for a product, then shut down the entire division NOW before wasting another dime. If I hate your mockup product, then order 10,000,000 from China now.

Steve Sailer said...

" "I heard former Secy.o f Defense Gates speak the other day at a conference.""

No, the proper way to phrase that is "Former Secy. of Defense Gates and I were speaking at a conference together, but he's kind of dull." Granted, your speech was to 20 people in Elko Room B on new ways to prevent homeless guys from stealing grocery stores' shopping carts, while Gates spoke in the Imperial Grand Ballroom on The State of the World, but you were speaking together.

Anonymous said...

I'm with one of the Anonymous commenters (Anonymi?) on The One's chances for re-election. He does not have to improve himself, just allow the economy to improve a bit (or have enough indicators of improvement to appear to allow his cheerleaders in the press to make the claim without gagging on it),and to have either his Republican opponent chosen for him by the press,and then be destroyed by them a la McCain, or for a credible third party candidate to emerge. The most important thing in any election, particularly in a national election (where the voter's ability to contact or observe the candidate is minimal) is control of the press. Only Hillary Clinton can wrest that away from him.

beowulf said...

"If I love your new concept for a product, then shut down the entire division NOW before wasting another dime. If I hate your mockup product, then order 10,000,000 from China now."

Ha ha, I wonder if the marketing number crunchers ever stumble upon just such a predictive anti-customer demographic. Like, for example, a Nielsen family who always watches the shows that get canceled after 3 weeks but has yet to watch an episode of CSI.

Svigor said...

I'm like the anti-customer. I should start a new product marketing research firm where the only interviewee is me. If I love your new concept for a product, then shut down the entire division NOW before wasting another dime. If I hate your mockup product, then order 10,000,000 from China now.

Right. Probably for sort of the same reasons you don't get (much of) a hard-on dropping names like your hypothetical "Gates and I spoke together" fella.

beowulf said...

"No, the proper way to phrase that is "Former Secy. of Defense Gates and I were speaking at a conference together, but he's kind of dull."

That reminds me of the time, true story, Steve Sailer told me he was the anti-customer. :o)

I guess the place for public speakers to live is Las Vegas, let the conferences come to you.

Nanonymous said...

This one is 100% Robin Hanson's terroir. It's all status games. People feel that their status increases in the presence of high status person. Organization's perceived status increases if it is able to attract high status speaker. And so on.

An academic equivalent of this is lectures/seminars by Nobel laureates.

malcontent said...

Just democracy in action, i.e. the turbocharged meritocratic market-based equivalent of the same phenomenon you see in any social gathering no matter how tiny. People are basically social and desire to be around important people, not losers like priests, grocers... How much do they make, anyway? Reselling packaged food I thought of as the lowest of low-margin biz

Pete Brimelow's "Worm in the Apple" has a funny bit about someone confusing Al Gore with Bob Dole--and naturally, to point out such dotty behavior to them does not embarrass those people in the slightest (furthermore may be interpreted as "poor form"). Just create a fake Twitter account named Zooey Deschanel or Bob Shrum or whatever and you'll have thousands of followers in an hour's time

Anonymous said...

Maybe GOP should appeal to Mexcian voters this way.

Anonymous said...

Once in a blue moon I'm asked to give a talk to this or that group of people (for free, this is very small scale, I do it for the fun) about some things I did quite a while ago that were slightly, mildly notable at the time (but really not of lasting importance).

For a while I tried to intellectualize the topic, to abstract it and propose subtle questions about it, and see if the audience and myself could draw any interesting conclusions about the experience. Then I'd open the floor to questions, hoping to generate some give-and-take and a unique discussion.

But all the questions would really just be "So... what was it like?"

As you'd expect, I guess.

Anonymous said...

"The real worse case for Obama is that he makes Hillary VP and wins the election..."

Dems are floating this idea...but why the heck would Hilary want to go from Sec. of State to the worst job in the world, VeeP?

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

one other factor the - people just like to be close to celebrities.. i forgot the term, but there is belief that the aura of greatness (or saintliness ) rubs off on those around them. that's why people keeps vials of saints blood or follow a charismatic leader..

I can easily see execs paying ridiculous amounts to be around ex sports guys.. politicians i find a little suspect"

The term you were thinking of is "Jock Sniffing". Perhaps the equivalent term for political groupies should be "Pol Licking". It adequately describes both sides of the transaction.

Speaking fees are now required in order to facilitate bribery. A mere twenty years ago, Congressman could just keep their campaign warchests when they left politics (Dan Rostenkowsi reportedly pocketed a cool million that way). Of course, campaign contributions are still a good form of bribery. In addition to polling, ads, and the like, what are campaign funds used for? Travel, meals, booze, parties, private jets - the exact things that a politician would have bought with his bribe money anyway.

Plus, there's also the insider trading. And let's not discount the possibility of shopping bags full of cash and deposits in off-shore accounts.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

It's possible that the National Grocer's Association paid Robert Gates to be there simply to bask in his glow, or because his presence would increase the turnout. Corporations are putting the squeeze on travel budgets lately, so having a big name at a convention might convince more people to show. These gigs aren't about paybacks (at least not directly) in every case, but it's one big factor.

Steve Sailer said...

"I guess the place for public speakers to live is Las Vegas, let the conferences come to you."

It's a good situation for entertainers -- Celine Dion just moved her family to Lake Las Vegas instead of being on the road all the time. Michael Jackson could have used a setup like that.

jody said...

well, this is certainly one of the most annoying things about obama being elected president. he's only 50, so for the next 20 YEARS, we'll have to hear about "former president obama" speaking here, and "former president obama" speaking there. guy will make 5 million dollars a year, every year, for decades, giving crap speeches. don't forget the cash out book, and movie deal.

and then there's the matter of the for-life secret service detail. my goodness, that's annoying. the amount of anti-american, anti-white events he will attend and speeches he will give, all the while being protected mostly by the kinds of guys who are exactly the people he openly hates and will be taking verbal dumps on regularly. secret service agents DO take sides, and openly express like for some assigments and dislike for others. lots of guys are gonna avoid the obama detail like the plague, and lots of the guys assigned to it will grow to hate it and try to get re-assigned.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Obama will go totally corporate post-presidency. Harvard board of trustees, Club of Rome, Intel, Exxon, you name it. I mean he ain't gonna be Secretary-General now, considering that whole EU thing (heh). Even his commentary on the Occupy All-Purpose-Everything happening was quite tepid. He's itching to get out of this dead-end job he's stuck in

Anonymous said...

jody@12:59

Don't forget the other thing we'll never get rid of: every single park, waterfront, and other public place will be littered and defiled with quotes from his banal, idiotic speeches carved in stone and sculpted in metal, everywhere you look. It's going to be a thousand times worse than all the moronic MLK quotations, and BHO hasn't even said anything memorable, let alone anything that makes much sense.

Anonymous said...

secret service agents DO take sides, and openly express like for some assigments and dislike for others. lots of guys are gonna avoid the obama detail like the plague, and lots of the guys assigned to it will grow to hate it and try to get re-assigned.

If we ever get an HBD president [I know - in an alternate universe], then maybe he can assign all the incompetent quote-hire AA agents to Obama's detail...

Skip G. said...

Geez,it's gonna be Jimmy Carter all over again. We'll have to put up with Barry's strange, clipped way of speaking.perhaps for decades.

Anonymous said...

Shecky Adelson did it right with Comdex. All the heavy hitters (Gates, Ellison, McNeely, etc.) showed up for free.

Rainforest Giant said...

Steve,

You said, "Michael Jackson could have used a set up like that."

Michael Jackson could have used a set up like Pashtun Afghanistan and lived like a sultan (at least until the Taliban flogged him to death).

What he couldn't do was live like a freak in the US and continue to bugger boys. If he had retired to be a promoter of 'boy bands' or some such he would have probably gotten away with his crap a lot easier and for a longer time.

Of course, he had the king-hell body image problem so he would have probably died anyway and his need for attention was clearly pathological so that probably did him in as well. To hell with it, Michael was doomed from the get go.

Truth said...

"He's facing jail time, along with Jarrett, Axelrod, Holder, and probably Michelle over Fast and Furious"

Dude, are you truly a sentient human being? Yeah, Obama is going to jail, just like Regan for Iran-Contra, Nixon for Watergate, Bush I and II for the Gulf Wars...

"Who-whom? Carville's a democrat, so we can be honest about him; he looks like he came down the river after Burt Reynolds to make Deliverance II."

Dude,that's a little...anti-white racist, isn't it?

Aren't you from South Carolina?

"secret service agents DO take sides, and openly express like for some assigments and dislike for others. lots of guys are gonna avoid the obama detail like the plague, and lots of the guys assigned to it will grow to hate it and try to get re-assigned."

Thanks for the "insider" perspective of the secret service, there, Mark J. Sullivan...

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

"and then there's the matter of the for-life secret service detail."

From the Secret Service's own page: "In 1997, Congress enacted legislation (Public Law 103-329) that limits Secret Service protection for former presidents to 10 years after leaving office. Under this new law, individuals who are in office before January 1, 1997, will continue to receive Secret Service protection for their lifetime. Individuals elected to office after that time will receive protection for 10 years after leaving office. Therefore, President Clinton will be the last president to receive lifetime protection."

Douglas Knight said...

Lots of powerless bad speakers are on the circuit, too. eg, Ray Kurzweil speaks to lots of groups that would seem uninterested in what he has to say.

Udolpho.com said...

maybe people on the boards are on other boards and he did them a favor? Maybe some back door deal we'll never hear about? There's a lot, lot more that goes on in DC than what MSM lets onto.

It's okay to say, "I don't know."

My only guess is that it says something about the culture of corporate executives. The vanity and ego of this class wants a special club to belong to, whereby they are flattered by being addressed as equals by men who are universally recognized for their importance.

Gates may seem to have nothing in common with a bunch of grocers, but these guys aren't Mr. Hoopers, they're...managers. Just like Gates. To members of the managerial class, experience in the industry is unimportant--they can get that from their lackeys. What they want is presence and aura of another manager, one recognized as belonging to the elect.

Udolpho.com said...

Although I admit I like Mangan's theory that it's a fancy way to write off Vegas trips.

Paul Mendez said...

but why the heck would Hilary want to go from Sec. of State to the worst job in the world, VeeP?

Because she wouldn't stay VP long.

Google "Arkancide."

Anonymous said...

People like public speeches cuz they're vague and generic and give people the impression that WE ALL MATTER. Obama is good at this.
But behind closed doors, he cannot impress people like Larry Summers with Oprahesque feel-good vague blank screen speechifying. He has to get down to nitty gritty details, and he hasn't done his homework. So, Summers prolly treated him like a student with a head full of mush. Obama prolly feels like Hart vis-a-vis Kingfield in Paper Chase. Difference is Hart really wanted to be a good student and impress Kingsfield. Obama at Harvard knew he could ace it just by being a clean cut negro, and all those rich whites and Jews doted on him. But in position of power, he hasn't a real clue as to what to do. He's good at mush but not much.

Kylie said...

"I'm like the anti-customer. I should start a new product marketing research firm where the only interviewee is me."

Same here. I like it, it sinks like a stone. I hate it, it flourishes like kudzu.

I probably did as much to ensure that Obama became POTUS as Oprah did.

etc said...

So how come nobody mentioned all the grocery stores the DoD runs for vets? The supply system for contractors, domestic & overseas, is another way grocery stores can get in on the action.

Obvious business interests there, and a massive taxpayer-funded budget to fight for.

Svigor said...

Who-whom? Carville's a democrat, so we can be honest about him; he looks like he came down the river after Burt Reynolds to make Deliverance II."

Dude,that's a little...anti-white racist, isn't it?


Somebody's got to take up the slack when Dems won't do what they'd be (avidly, assiduously, fervently, lovingly, devotedly) doing if he wasn't a Dem.

The silence on this has always struck me. If that guy was an R or a conservative it would be a constant running gag with Ds and Libs. He looks like a redneck orc.

NOTA said...

Svigor:

It's only daring and clever to insult the appearance, accent. lower class cultural markers, etc., of people from the other side. Whether its clever or lame to mention Michael Moore's weight, say, is entirely a function of the tribal affiliations of your audience, just like making fun of Sarah Palin's non-ruling-class education and regional accent.

NOTA said...

There is clearly a demand for attending speeches by big names, even when they're likely not to have anything to say. OTOH, many years ago, at the beginning of the Clinton administration, I attended a friend's graduation. They invited some old Washington reporter (I think Helen Thomas, but I may be wrong) to give a speech. She gave an interesting but weird talk about all the sex scandals lurking in the background of this Clinton character. At the time, I thought she was either nuts or f--king wit us, but later events suggested otherwise. Though I dont think the specific sex scandals she was most cncerned with ever came out in public, and for all I know they may not have happened.

The point is, at least in the pre-cellphone-camera, pre-Youtube era, at least, you could sometimes get access to a rather more unfiltered version of the famous person's opinions in a speech in person than one on TV. (And most speeches on TV are only excerpted. Outside of CSPAN, you wont see many long speeches by Helen Thomas or Robert Gates on TV. That would cut into their all-important coverage of Caylee and Anna Marie Nichole and Mel Gibson's latest demonstration that he 's a big asshole when he's drunk.

I'm sure there is also an element of payoff here. In particular, offering Clinton millions of dollars for speaking engagements at Goldman and Citi and such is an important signal sent to later presidents like Obama about the wisdom of burning bridges with them. (Bush is independently wealthy, so I suppose he only gives speeches he wants to give. Similarly, if Romney or Cain get elected, personal bribery will probably not be all that big an issue, though it might matter for Bachman or Perry or Paul.

Chris said...

After your term as consul, you get appointed proconsul so you can bilk the provinces. Speakers don't get gigs because people want to hear them, they get gigs because the people who hire speakers want to hire them.

Anonymous said...

Detroit not gonna look too good in this

Qwert said...

Obama has his megalomaniacal eyes toward bigger things, like the Supreme Court or some kind of international group leadership

Anonymous said...

Occupy Wall Street spreading all over the world. Me thinks 'financial system' or finance capitalism' is a codeword for Jews.
Had it not been for the Holocaust, people would be yelling 'Jews'.
Since they can't use the J-word, they talk about 'financial system', 'banks', etc. But it comes down to Jewish power. I wonder how this will play out.

DC Handgun Info said...

Over 50 years ago, my mother was a public speaker in New York. While not a college grad, she spoke extremely well with a pseudo-British accent, was cultured, charming, beautiful, and further spoke four languages well and three more moderately. Back then, there was much less competition from mass media, and cultured people went to see public speakers.