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How to make money as a politician? Write a book
Question of the Day
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Rep. Chris Stewart made $285,000 last year in book royalties, a good chunk of it for penning Elizabeth Smart’s harrowing story of her kidnapping, rape and eventual rescue.
Sen. Mike Lee made $7,500 from his book on why Chief Justice John Roberts was wrong to back Obamacare.
And Sen. Orrin Hatch made nearly $5,000 in royalties, mostly for songs he’s written.
Members of Congress are limited in outside income they can make from working - aside from investment money that keeps many of them well-off - but there’s one way to bulk up their take-home pay: writing.
And, besides the payout that comes with writing books, members also get a chance to mold history or speak to their supporters through books about their lives or expounding on the political gamesmanship of Washington. It’s a good deal for the members who have a built-in constituency ready to buy the latest tome, and a good way to spread their message.
Hillary Clinton took home a reported $8 million for her recently released book, “Hard Choices,” one of many volumes from the potential presidential candidate. Then-Sen. Barack Obama got a nearly $2 million advance for his 2005 book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Some 33 sitting senators have books - Hatch has written four himself and Lee two - and House members have plenty of titles, too.
There are many reasons for a politician to publish.
“Obviously, there’s what you could describe as the shameless, self-promotion motivation,” says Steven Billet, director of the master’s program for legislative affairs at George Washington University. “If they’re thinking about higher office - obviously many of them are - many of them use these works, especially biographical works, can be used to buff up their history and make themselves more prominent and perhaps more worthy of higher office or perhaps just remaining in office. More charitably, lots of members of Congress have ideas” they want to share.
In Stewart’s case, he was an author before he was elected to represent the 2nd Congressional District. His “Seven Miracles That Saved America” and “The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World” hit The New York Times best-seller list, and he’s also written dozens of military-themed novels.
But writing the Smart story was the toughest challenge he’s faced, the congressman says, because of the subject matter: a 14-year-old girl kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home, raped daily, and starved nearly to death. She was rescued nine months later.
“It was such a dark experience,” Stewart says, “and yet we wanted to tell an inspiring book, and the whole point is to show people that Elizabeth is a remarkable person who had a terrible experience but has been able to overcome it.”
Stewart made $92,000 from St. Martin’s Press, publisher of the Smart book, according to a financial disclosure filed with the House. Stewart says most of that was for the Smart book, which he co-wrote with the now 26-year-old. He also made nearly $102,000 from Deseret Book and another $92,000 from Mercury Ink, which featured a series of e-books by Stewart.
The freshman congressman says 90 percent of the Smart book was written before he took office, though he says he may still look to write other books while he’s serving.
He knows he’s not a popular enough figure yet to write about his own history, but he has some causes that may be worth a novel.
“You can teach things and advocate for things through fiction,” Stewart says, “and you can be effective in sharing a message through fiction.”
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