Outrageous

Newt Gingrich, Kim Kardashian and More Overpaid Celebrity Speakers

The Daily Beast picks the 10 most outrageously overpaid celebrities from Newt Gingrich to Paris Hilton.

Clockwise from top left: UPI / Landov; AP Photo; Getty Images (2)

Clockwise from top left: UPI / Landov; AP Photo; Getty Images (2)

Newt Gingrich’s Speaking Fees & More Overpaid Talkers

Whether you’re delivering a reused motivational speech or doing a 15-minute nightclub appearance, being famous can make you millions just for showing up. The Daily Beast picks the 10 most outrageously overpaid celebrities, from Newt Gingrich to Kim Kardashian.

Scott Halleran / Getty Images

James Carville: $30,000

James Carville gets about $30,000 for a speech, and he’s not ashamed of it. “Let’s say you are secretary of something—there are two ways you are going to make a really good living: a lobbyist or a speaker, or a combination of the two,” he told The Washington Post. Other pundits make even more. Sean Hannity charges $100,000 per engagement and requires a private jet.

Alice Keeney / AP Photo

Newt Gingrich: $60,000

Perhaps not the most tactful way to defend yourself against charges of lobbying, Newt Gingrich claimed that he didn’t need to lobby because his speaking gigs are so lucrative. “I did no lobbying of any kind, period,” Gingrich said at a campaign stop in South Carolina. “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.” Gingrich’s speaking business notwithstanding, he may have lobbied as well. The New York Times reports that Gingrich pitched his clients’ ideas to lawmakers for $200,000 a year in membership fees.

Chris Hondros / Getty Images

John Edwards: $65,000

John Edwards took heat for charging $55,000 to speak at the University of California, Davis, in January 2006. He reportedly earned as much as $65,000 for speaking engagements. (The Edwards campaign said the UC Davis speech paid for itself through ticket sales.) His fee got demoted to $35,000 at Indiana University in 2008 after news of his affair broke.

Emmanuel Dunand, AFP / Getty Images

Donald Trump: $1.5 Million

Donald Trump’s best deal may have been talking about real estate rather than buying it. In 2006 and 2007 he made $1.5 million per speech at 17 real-estate investing seminars for the Learning Annex. The education company’s founder, Bill Zanker, says the astonishing sum was still a good deal, because he made a profit selling tickets at $500 a pop.

Adam Bettcher / Getty Images

Bristol Palin: $30,000

Bristol Palin followed in her mother’s footsteps, straight to the speaker circuit at the age of 19 with a fee between $15,000 and $30,000. Single Source Speakers, the agency she signed to, says she’s available for conferences, fundraisers, special events and holidays, as well as abstinence and "pro-life" programs. Sarah Palin charges an average of $100,000 per engagement.

Rob Griffith / AP Photo

Richard Branson: $100,000

Billionaire mogul Richard Branson may not earn as much per speech as Bill Clinton, but he’s approaching the top tier of speakers worldwide, charging a whopping $100,000 minimum for appearances. Branson is known both for his Virgin Group, which owns more than 400 companies, and his polished skills as a motivational speaker. For the businesses who book him, his stratospheric fee must not be a problem.

Alexis C. Glenn, UPI / Landov

Ann Coulter: $25,000

The conservative firebrand’s primary source of income is the speaking circuit—to the tune of about $25,000 per speech, and an estimated $500,000 total in 2010. Although there’s no doubt you’ll be getting another version of the same screed she writes every week in her syndicated column, just hiring her—as GOProud learned in 2010—can buy you lots of attention.


AP Photo (2)

Harold Ford & Michael Steele: $40,000

Would you prefer a failed senatorial candidate or a Republican party official so gaffe-prone he has his own puppet on The Daily Show? You can have both for the bargain price of $40,000. That’s what the University of Arkansas paid for a dual appearance by then-prospective Senate candidate Harold Ford and Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. The pair command about $20,000-30,000 per speech on each—not a bad deal, considering the possible media attention from Ford lying about his address, or Steele unwittingly denouncing his party’s foreign-policy positions.


Evan Agostini / AP Photo

Kim Kardashian: $75,000

Kardashian was the highest-paid reality TV star of 2010, thanks in no small part to the outrageous “appearance fees” she was paid by clubs and events to be photographed among the guests. Kardashian routinely rakes in $50,000 to $75,000 for these appearances. Daniel Craig may think she’s a “f--cking idiot,” but no one ever said stupid doesn’t sell.


Dave M. Benett / Getty Images

Paris Hilton: $110,000

If you haven’t gotten your fill of Paris Hilton from her reality TV shows, her movie roles, and her disastrous pop album, you can hire her for 70,000 pounds to hang out at your venue, like some London clubs did during the height of her celebrity. That’s as much as former prime minister Gordon Brown was told he could get for his speeches. But it seems even the reality-free world of nightclub promotion eventually came to its senses: by 2008, Hilton’s U.K. “appearance fees” had fallen to around 25,000 pounds.