32 of the Highest-Paid American Speakers

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Alexey Laputin / Shutterstock.com
Alexey Laputin / Shutterstock.com

Need some extra cash? If you can parlay a political career, a successful business, or your expertise and insight into a regular public speaking gig, you can make some serious dough. Just check out what these politicians, authors and pundits are earning in speaking fees. Can you guess who tops the list?

Liz Cheney: $20,000

CheneyforWyoming.com / Money Talks News
CheneyforWyoming.com / Money Talks News

Following in family tradition, Liz joins her dad, former Vice President Dick Cheney, in charging five figures for speaking engagements. As you’ll see by clicking through this list, his fee is still pretty far above what she charges — $20,000 plus travel for herself, according to Politico. Elizabeth Lynne “Liz” Cheney is running for U.S. Congress in her home state of Wyoming.

Mike Huckabee: $22,000

Mike Huckabee
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The former governor of Arkansas who has made several attempts to garner the Republican nomination for the presidency has done well with speaking engagements, typically for religious and socially conservative organizations. In a 16-month stretch in 2014-15, he made some 44 appearances, at an average of more than $22,000 each, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, citing Federal Election Commission documents.

James Carville: $30,000

James Carville
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The political commentator and prominent Democratic party figure pulls in $30,000 a speech when he talks about current events, media and journalism, and election forecasts. Carville is also a professor of practice in the Political Science Department at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Jon Huntsman: $40,000

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Huntsman served as Utah governor (2005-2009) and attempted to land the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2012. But he has served under presidents of both parties, most recently as ambassador to China (2009-2011) under President Obama. Huntsman serves on the boards of Ford Motor Co. and Caterpillar Inc. He is also the chairman of the foreign-policy think tank the Atlantic Council.

Ben Carson: $40,000

Ben Carson
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The pediatric neurosurgeon and politician became a household name in 2015 when he joined the race for the Republican presidential nomination. He was on the speaking circuit well before his run for the White House, however, and has written a number of books. He usually speaks to faith-based groups on health care, religion and diversity.

Chris Dodd: $40,000

Chris Dodd
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The 30-year U.S. senator from Connecticut left office in 2011, but Dodd still makes the rounds. When speaking on topics like U.S. government regulation, health care reform, foreign policy and global economy, Dodd charges upward of $40,000. He is also CEO of the Motion Pictures Association of America.

Joe Scarborough: $45,000

Joe Scarborough
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Scarborough was a Republican politician — serving as a U.S. congressman from Florida in the late 1990s — before he became a talk show host on MSNBC. The “Morning Joe” co-host offers his political commentary and opinion on American culture for $45,000 per speech. Fellow Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski is pictured with him above.

Colin Powell: $50,000

Colin Powell
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Gen. Colin Powell was the first African-American to hold the position of U.S. secretary of state (2001-2005), serving under George W. Bush. Powell is a four-star general and typically speaks on leadership, education and patriotism.

Madeleine Albright: $50,000

Madeleine Albright
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America’s first female secretary of state — appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 — gives talks on foreign policy, human rights, the global economy and nearly two dozen other topics. She teaches international relations at Georgetown University, and founded her own business strategy group. Albright has also written nearly half a dozen books on politics and her time in office.

Jeb Bush: $50,000

Jeb Bush
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The former Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor typically speaks to corporate audiences at a fee of $50,000 per engagement. Between 2007 and 2014, he gave more than 100 speeches, according to The New York Times. Do the math: That’s a cool $5 million.

Ron Paul: $50,000

Ron Paul
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Ron Paul — a physician and author — served as a U.S. congressman from Texas and has made three bids for the presidency, running on his beliefs in small government, low taxes and limiting U.S. intervention abroad. Paul has charged as much as $50,000 for speaking fees plus hotel, meals, and ground transportation for two, according to Buzzfeed.

Haley Barbour: $60,000

Haley Barbour
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A former Mississippi governor and former chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, Barbour speaks around the country about job creation, education, health care, and other policy topics. Barbour also continues to work at the lobbying group he founded in 1991.

Newt Gingrich: $60,000

Newt Gingrich
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Former Speaker of the House Gingrich represented Georgia in Congress for 20 years (1979-1999) and made a run for the presidency in 2012. He also teaches college history and geography and acts as a political consultant. His typical speaking contract requires payment of $60,000 and, according to The Washington Post, has a list of requirements, including first-class airfare, hotel rooms for himself and an aide traveling with him, and two bathrooms within his hotel room.

Mitt Romney: $50,000/$68,000

Mitt Romney
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The former Massachusetts governor and Republican Party presidential nominee was already a very wealthy man from his leadership of Bain Capital, one of the world’s top private-equity investment firms. His political and business credentials have made him a hot-ticket speaker, although his $50,000 fee is modest by comparison to some of the politicians on this list — as you will see. Some of what he earns through speaking engagements goes to a nonprofit — Charity Vision, which provides medical services in developing countries — run by his son Josh.

Carly Fiorina: $73,000

Carly Fiorina
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The former Hewlett-Packard CEO turned Republican presidential candidate usually charges around $73,000 per speech, but has at times charged up to $100,500, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In one stretch between the start of 2014 and June 2015, she made $786,000 in speaking fees, according to the report, which cites Federal Election Commission documents.

Dick Cheney: $75,000

Dick Cheney
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The former vice president under George W. Bush asks $75,000 per speaking engagement. But there’s another caveat: Cheney also commands first-class travel for three, says Politico. He speaks on history, policy and business.

Chelsea Clinton: $75,000

Chelsea Clinton
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While Chelsea Clinton doesn’t make as much as her parents when it comes to speaking engagements, she’s not doing badly for herself. She requests a $75,000 speaking fee, although 100 percent that income goes to the Clinton Foundation, The New York Times reported, citing a foundation spokesperson. She typically speaks on topics in line with the foundation’s mission.

Malcolm Gladwell: $80,000

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Gladwell, a Canadian-born journalist and writer for The New Yorker, has produced a number of best-selling nonfiction books, including “Outliers,” “The Tipping Point” and “Blink.” For his speaking engagements — which typically explore topics in sociology and social psychology — he charges $80,000.

Michael Lewis: $100,000

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Investigative journalist and author Michael Lewis has penned an impressive list of nonfiction best-sellers, including “Flash Boys,” “Moneyball,” “Liar’s Poker” and “The Big Short.” He charges $100,000 per speech plus two first-class plane tickets, according to Bloomberg.

David Plouffe: $100,000

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Plouffe is a longtime Democratic Party operative who was campaign manager and later White House adviser to President Barack Obama. He received $100,000 for two speeches from a Nigerian company doing business with Iran’s government. The speaking engagements, which came a month before joining Obama’s staff in 2010, invited suspicions of influence buying, even though Plouffe gave the speeches as a private individual, not a member of the administration.

Sarah Palin: $100,000

Sarah Palin
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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin emerged onto the national stage as a champion of the Tea Party and Republican vice presidential nominee on the ticket with Sen. John McCain in 2008. Although the bid for the White House was unsuccessful, Palin had a soft landing, earning $100,000 for speaking engagements, with a discounted fee of $75,000 for West Coast appearances, Politico reported.

Al Gore: $100,000

Al Gore
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Vice president under Bill Clinton, Al Gore has made climate change his central focus since leaving office. The documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” based on Gore’s climate work, won an Oscar in 2006. Not long after he was awarded a portion of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, he charged upward of $175,000 for engagements, Bloomberg reported. But records show he typically sets his speaking fees around the $100,000 mark.

Katie Couric: $110,000

Katie Couric
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The television journalist, perhaps best known as the former host of NBC’s TODAY show, was also the first woman to solo-anchor an evening news show — the CBS Evening News — and is currently Yahoo! News anchor. Since her husband’s death from colon cancer, Couric has become an advocate for cancer screening as well. In 2006, she was paid $110,000 for a commencement speech at the University of Oklahoma, as was widely reported.

Larry Summers: $135,000

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The former Treasury secretary charges anywhere between $10,000 and $135,000 for various engagements, registering on the high end in 2009 when Summers spoke at a Goldman Sachs event, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Condoleezza Rice: $150,000

Condoleezza Rice
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The former secretary of state (2005-2009) under President George W. Bush has been busy since she left office. She’s on the board of online storage company Dropbox, co-founded a consulting firm and is on the College Football Playoff Committee. In 2014, she was paid $150,000 for speaking at the University of Minnesota, ABC News reported.

President George W. Bush: $150,000

George W. Bush
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Many former presidents head from one podium to another, this time as a public speaker. Former President George W. Bush took to speaking engagements almost immediately after leaving office and has made millions doing so. Former First Lady Laura Bush and daughter Barbara also make up to $15,000 for each appearance.

Tim Geithner: $200,000

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The former treasury secretary (2009-2013) under President Obama and former New York Federal Reserve Bank president (2003-2009) was instrumental in crafting the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that shored up big banks during the financial crisis. In June 2013, not long after Geithner left the Treasury, Deutsche Bank paid him $200,000 for a speaking engagement, Business Insider reported. But on other appearances, he has netted a mere $100,000.

Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton: $200,000 each

Hillary-Bill Clinton
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Both Clintons have been on a lucrative speaking circuit since they left the White House more than 15 years ago. Former President Bill Clinton starting making public speaking engagements soon after leaving the White House because the Clinton’s were “dead broke.”

Hillary started her paid-speaking career after her time as a U.S. senator (2001-2009) and secretary of state (2009-2013), and before beginning her current run for the presidency. While $200,000 seems to be the Clinton’s standard rate, The New York TImes reports that Bill Clinton has garnered significantly more for overseas engagements, including a $700,000 fee for a speech in Nigeria.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: $250,000

Arnold Schwarzenegger
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The actor turned politician was California’s 38th governor (2003-2011). Along with his quarter-million-dollar speaker fee, Schwarzenegger also needs a private jet to be provided by or paid for by the client requesting him.

Rudy Giuliani: $300,000

Rudy Giuliani
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The former New York City mayor (1994-2001) and former Republican presidential candidate charges as much as $300,000 per speaking engagement, according to the Huffington Post. Giuliani became known internationally for his response to the 9/11 attack. For his speeches, the former mayor’s contract requires a two-bedroom suite for himself and four rooms for his entourage, as well as first-class private jet transport for five people.

Ben Bernanke: $400,000

Ben Bernake
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The former chair of the Federal Reserve (2006-2014) used to make $200,000 a year. Now, he can make double that in a couple hours for a speaking engagement. Bernanke usually speaks to trade associations, investment banks and private equity firms. He’s now an economist at the Washington, D.C. think tank Brookings Institution.

Donald Trump: $1.5 million

Donald Trump
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We all hear Donald Trump speak for free these days as the real estate tycoon and reality TV star pursues the presidency. But, as with many things bearing his name, his public speaking gigs were big money makers. At the high end, Trump charged $1.5 million per session in a series of 17 seminars for The Learning Annex’s “real estate wealth expos,” according to Forbes. None of his peers comes close to this fee.

What do you think of the fees commanded by these public figures? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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