Organizations pay big bucks to land Palin for fundraisers

Organizers for the future Uptown Women's Center in Dallas wanted a big draw for their one and only fundraiser for a new health and wellness resource center for North Texas women.

They were able to land one of the hottest speakers on the circuit: former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, whose calendar is already booked for the whole year.

"She's a very popular draw," said Carolyn Cline, executive director of the Downtown Pregnancy Center in Dallas, which is working to develop the uptown center. "Our phones are ringing off the walls.

"There's a huge buzz about her coming. We believe we'll have standing room only."

Tickets for the April 30 dinner with Palin, believed to be the former Alaska governor's only Dallas appearance this year, are selling for $1,000. Two tickets to a VIP reception with Palin and the dinner are selling for $25,000.

Organizers say they aren't "allowed to disclose the amount" the organization is paying Palin for the event, but reports show that she commands six-figure fees, the kind that some political observers say are usually reserved for former presidents or vice presidents.

Her fees have created controversy in other areas, most recently in California, where questions have been raised about how much she is earning for a speech for California State University Stanislaus Foundation and whether the nonprofit group violated public disclosure laws by not revealing details of the contract.

Students there found a copy of a Palin contract in the trash that outlines requirements for Palin's speech, including that her air travel must be first-class or on a Lear jet, that her hotel stay must include two to three rooms booked under an alias and that any lectern for her must have two unopened bottles of water and bendable straws.

No details have been released regarding Palin's Dallas contract. But if the Dallas event is a sellout, it could raise nearly $2 million.

Worth the money?

Political observers say popular speakers -- former presidents, athletes, movie stars and Palin -- can command sizable speaking fees.

"Of course $100,000 is outrageous, but it's not out of line with what other people are getting," said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University. "When you are in the promotion business, you've got to spend the money for the headliner to draw people to your function. When you think of the cost of things these days, $100,000 is not a huge investment."

Some speakers at TCU may be paid $60,000 to $80,000.

Palin, thrown into the national spotlight in 2008 when she became John McCain's running mate, has proven to have a broad appeal.

Reports show since she resigned her job as Alaska's governor last year, she has earned $12 million through TV and book deals and speaking fees, including $100,000 for some speeches.

Her speaking fees rival those received by some former presidents.

"Very few others get individual paydays at that rate," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "No other governor in the country, except maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger, could command a speaker's fee like that now.

"But Sarah Palin is a crossover between a politician and entertainer or celebrity," he said. "She has this personality and a sizzle and a certain pitch perfect sense of what the Tea Party element of the population is looking for."

Jillson noted that if Palin's big paydays will end if she runs for president in 2012.

"If she decides to run for president, she'll have to stop doing this during the campaign," he said.

Other paydays

Here's a look at what some other politicians -- many who have donated some or all of their speaking fees to charity -- have earned for appearances after they left office:

Former President Bill Clinton has earned millions for giving speeches through the years. Documents filed during his wife's 2008 presidential bid showed that he earned more than $4.5 million for speeches around the world that year, including India, Germany, Portugal, China and Malaysia. He earned $350,000 from a bank in Malaysia and $1.2 million from a Canadian motivational company. Reports show he earned more than $50 million through speaking engagements between 2001 and 2007.

Former President George W. Bush has received fees ranging from $100,000 (when the appearance is near his Dallas home) to $150,000 since leaving office. Reports show he requires first-class or private jet accommodations when he travels for a speech. He has said he could earn "ridiculous" amounts of money through speeches.

Former President George H.W. Bush also has made millions through the years giving speeches throughout the world. As recently as 2004, he received between $125,000 and $150,000 for several speeches in China.

Former President Ronald Reagan reportedly earned $2 million for one set of speeches in Japan after he left office.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has been paid $100,000 for some speeches.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly earns as much as $150,000 per speech.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was able to pull in $100,000 speaking fees after leaving office. At one point, he earned more than $11 million during a two-year period, according to financial disclosure forms that he filed during his 2008 presidential bid.

ANNA M. TINSLEY, 817-390-7610