Legendary public speaker Willard Mitt Romney.
"I get speakers fees from time to time, but not very much," Mitt Romney said last week of his six-figure public speaking income. His foes seized on the gaffe as further evidence of Romney being out of touch with average Americans, but there's another reason for him to downplay the payments, which totaled to $374,000 for nine speeches in 2010—an average of $41,592 per appearance. (Newt Gingrich reported receiving a total of $21,625 in speaking fees and Rick Santorum reported none.) The high payments raise questions about what the groups who hired these pols might expect in return. Here's a rundown of speeches Romney and Gingrich have disclosed.
Quest Educational Foundation (Naples, Florida)
An educational nonprofit that offers tutoring and test-prep services, Quest also has a political side. Its website claims affiliations to libertarian groups such as the Cato Institute, Ludwig Von Mises Institute, and Ayn Rand Institute. Its chairman, C.E. Dekko Jr., is an executive with Group Dekko, a multinational manufacturing company that makes everything from truck parts to medical devices. Over the years he has donated $167,297 to political candidates and parties, almost all of it to Libertarians and Republicans.
Riverside Theatre (Vero Beach, Florida)
While traveling the country to hawk his book in 2010, Romney typically spoke to crowds for free. But he was so popular in conservative, affluent Vero Beach that the local theater decided to charge for tickets and give Romney a cut. Happy to play along, Mayor Kevin Sawnick gave Romney a key to the city.
Claremont McKenna College (Claremont, California)
About two weeks earlier, Romney had spoken to students at Emory University for free. But he was brought to Claremont McKenna through the university's Pacesetters Fellowship Program, which "attracts leaders in business, academia, and public affairs" by giving them money.
Get Motivated Seminars (via satellite from Boston)
The Weekly Standard calls Get Motivated "a quasi-Christian self-help operation" in which "the company makes money both from ticket sales and by letting pitchmen hawk personal improvement and get-rich-quick products during the interludes between the star speakers"—including the likes of Zig Ziglar, Brett Favre, and Sarah Palin.
HP Healthcare Services (Dallas)
This lucrative consulting arm of the HP computer empire, which offers "a comprehensive digital health solution" to hospitals and medical providers, may have been attracted to Romney for his role in creating state-run healthcare in Massachusetts.
Clark Consulting (Half Moon Bay, California)
This boutique consulting firm advises large financial institutions about life insurance programs—and fights on their behalf in Washington. Last year, Clark Consulting asked (PDF) financial regulators responsible for implementing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms (the "Volcker Rule"), to carve out an exemption for bank-owned life insurance arrangements. In October, the exemption was granted (PDF). Since 2002, the company's PAC has spent more than $470,000.
GoldenTree Asset Management (New York City)
This Wall Street investment firm manages $13.5 billion, much of it in hedge funds. Since 2008, founder Steven Tananbaum has donated $77,398 to candidates, committees, and PACs, mostly Republican.
International Franchise Association (Las Vegas)
"Mitt Romney’s broad experience in business, government and politics will provide critical insight for IFA members as we continue to position our companies for growth in a challenging financial climate," IFA Chairman Ken Walker said in announcing that Romney would keynote the IFA's 51st annual convention. The IFA promotes the global spread of chain stores like Burger King and Pizza Hut.
Barclays Bank (Washington, DC)
Barclays lobbyist Patrick J. Durkin is Romney's most active bundler on K Street, raising $245,825 on his behalf last quarter. The world's fifth-largest corporation by assets, London-based Barclays spent $2.8 million on DC lobbyists last year.
John Locke Foundation (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Gingrich keynoted the foundation's 20th anniversary event, waxing poetic about the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. The board of the John Locke Foundation includes Art Pope, the wholesaling baron who has essentially purchased North Carolina's government.
American Family Association
Gingrich's financial disclosures, which note three separate $2,000 payments, don't specify precisely how Gingrich earned the money from this anti-gay Christian group, but his tax return suggests that at least some portion was compensation for public speaking. The AFA, which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a "hate group," was also behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry's prayer festival in Houston.