Newt Gingrich's campaign might be on the brink, but no one should worry about the former House speaker if he doesn't win the nomination. He can return to a life of high-paid speaking gigs.
Gingrich, who was represented by the ubiquitous Washington Speakers Bureau before he ran for president, was paid $60,000 every time he spoke to a group in his post-congressional career, according to his own account. The raised profile that his presidential campaign has brought him could jack up that price even more.
The millions of dollars that make up Gingrich's wealth have come from a combination of consulting and speaking work. Last year, he revealed his price tag while meeting with voters in South Carolina, countering the idea that he left Congress to become a cash-driven lobbyist.
"I did no lobbying of any kind, period," Gingrich said. "I'm going to be really direct, O.K.? I was charging $60,000 a speech. And the number of speeches was going up, not down. Normally, celebrities leave and they gradually sell fewer speeches every year. We were selling more."
Gingrich's campaign wouldn't confirm the figure. In an email, Gingrich spokesman Joe DeSantis said that "since every contract was negotiated separately (Washington Speakers Bureau represented Newt) it was our policy not to share that information."
The cost appears to be true though. Two years ago, Gingrich was paid $60,750 by a private-equity firm to speak about the industry, a speech that drew scrutiny this year after the firm's managing director confirmed the ex-speaker's comments as he was campaigning against Mitt Romney's background in the business.
"This gentleman praised private equity more fulsomely than I could ever do it," the director, Paul Levy, told Bloomberg TV. "He was great. He gave a great evening. Everybody had fun. He fielded a lot of questions. He gave us a lot of time."
The Washington Speakers Bureau didn't respond to requests for details of Gingrich's speaking engagements, and he has released tax returns for only 2010, when he reported making $21,625 in speaking fees - less than the $60,000 per speech he said he was worth.
Shawn Ellis, the founder of the management firm The Speakers Group, said fees for high-profile gigs can run as high as $200,000, and sometimes well more than that.
Bill Clinton, for example, made $51.9 million from speeches from 2000 to 2006, according to tax returns released by his wife's presidential campaign in 2008.
"As with anything, it's a free market, and it's all about supply and demand," said Ellis, who doesn't represent Gingrich. "There's a limited supply of these high-profile individuals, and they have a unique perspective to share, unique expertise. There's a value on that."
For now, of course, Gingrich delivers his stump speeches daily across the country - for free.