Hillary Clinton isn’t the only 2016 contender still picking up paychecks at the podium.
Despite dropping his eponymous Fox News show earlier this year to avoid potential conflicts of interest, potential Republican candidate Mike Huckabee continues to earn money through speaking gigs. The former Arkansas governor has made no bones about his interest in running for the White House. After leaving his show on January 3 — a move likely precipitated by Fox — Huckabee published the book God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy, an ode to his brand of folksy social conservatism released on January 31.
“I think a decision [on running] will be forthcoming,” he told CBS’s John Dickerson on March 1, adding that he was leaning toward “yes” and would decide in the spring. “I think the fact that I left Fox News is a pretty good indication that — I didn’t do that just because I enjoyed having Saturdays at home,” he said.
But while probable Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton comes under scrutiny for her ultra-expensive lecture tour, and fellow GOP hopeful Ben Carson claims he stopped accepting paid gigs “months ago,” Huckabee remains on the market — even as his own possible candidacy gains momentum.
“Governor Huckabee has not made a decision about whether or not he will run for president,” Huckabee spokeswoman Alice Stewart tells National Review in a brief e-mail statement. “He currently earns a living as an author, host of a daily radio commentary, and a public speaker.”
The former governor carefully guards information on the frequency and profitability of his speeches. Premiere Speakers Bureau – the Tennessee-based agency that books Huckabee for talks with titles such as “From Fat to Fit,” “Living to Lead,” and “Weapons of Mass Instruction” – ignored multiple phone requests from NR.
But Huckabee had at least two paid speaking engagements in the first week of March alone. On Tuesday, he spoke at Oklahoma Baptist University’s Green and Gold Gala, which a university spokeswoman described as an event “to raise money for student scholarships.” The spokeswoman told NR she was contractually obligated not to disclose Huckabee’s compensation. And on Thursday, Huckabee traveled to Brownwood, Texas, for a paid speech at the Pregnancy Care Center’s “Everyone Deserves a Birthday” fundraising event. “I don’t know how much [he was paid],” a female employee at the center tells NR. “And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.” The former pastor was also slated to “guest preach” on Friday at the First Baptist Church in Indian Trail, N.C. The church, which claims more than 5,000 members, according to its website, did not return multiple calls from NR. During the 2008 presidential cycle, Huckabee charged “a minimum of $25,000 per engagement plus expenses” to speak at other large churches.
Huckabee continued accepting paid speaking engagements well into his official 2008 candidacy, and if he announces in the spring, it’s not clear whether he’ll decide to forgo them this time. For now, however, the former governor is still making the rounds, cashing in on both past political fame and present political speculation.
— Brendan Bordelon is a media reporter for National Review Online.