In South Carolina on Tuesday, in a moment of candor he surely regrets, Mitt Romney told a television reporter that “I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much.” (A version of the clip is below.)
Although Romney has repeatedly declined to release his tax returns, he did file a personal financial disclosure as is required by all who are seeking the Presidential nomination. According to that filing, Romney was hired to give nine speeches and was paid a total of $374,327. The least he made for a speech was $11,475, paid by Claremont McKenna College, and the most was $68,000, paid on two different occasions.
Romney’s detractors and pundits on the left have been quick to point out that, to the vast majority of Americans, Romney’s speaking revenues are hardly “not very much.” The average American household makes $49,445 annually, according to the latest U.S. Census data; Romney’s speaking fees are more than seven times that amount.
For American Indians, the $374,000 figure is even more striking: It’s ten times the average household income of $37,348. (Source: 2009 American Community Survey.)
Romney is not the only public figure who gets paid a lot to speak. Many will recall how his competitor Newt Gingrich responded, just a couple of months ago, when asked about income from lobbying. “I did no lobbying of any kind, period,” Gingrich said, according to TheHill.com. “For a practical reason—and I’m going to be really direct, OK? I was charging $60,000 a speech and the number of speeches was going up, not down.”
Neither Gingrich nor Romney made the cut for a feature on the highest-paid speakers compiled last year by The Huffington Post—that list was topped by Bill Clinton ($150,000-$450,000 per speech) and also included Tony Blair ($250,000), Rudy Giuliani ($270,000), Alan Greenspan ($250,000) and Larry Summers ($135,000).