Republican candidates should have plenty of career advice

Our topic for today is: Where do the Republican candidates for president get their money?

The personal finances of the GOP presidential hopefuls are important for two reasons. One is that we're talking about people who aspire to the most prestigious and important job the nation has to offer. The other is that these folks seem to have done really, really well. Perhaps they can offer career tips.

Remember when Newt Gingrich claimed that the mortgage giant Freddie Mac paid him $300,000 for his advice "as a historian"? Thousands of young history majors who were resigned to a future in which they would pad out their $2,000-a-semester salaries as part-time adjunct lecturers with fulfilling careers in bartending suddenly were engulfed with new hope.

Unfortunately, it turned out that Newt's income actually comes from running think tanks that help promote the corporate clients' goals in the public sector. That may be a little harder for the youth of America to put their heads around. But, kids, if anybody asks you what you want to be when you grow up, say: policy guru.

Gingrich wants everyone to understand that he does not lobby. Really, whatever the exact legal definition of lobbying is, that is something he did not do. The Gingrich Group got what turns out to be about $1.6 million to not-lobby for Freddie Mac, one of a long, long list of clients. Let's all pause to recall the high dudgeon with which Gingrich announced, during one of the debates, that Rep. Barney Frank ought to be put in jail for being "close to" Freddie Mac lobbyists. What kind of politician demands that an elected official be incarcerated for hanging out with the same people who are paying said politician $1.6 million or so to not-lobby?


This is an unusually delusional presidential field. Mitt Romney's greatest political asset is that he doesn't seem to actually believeit when he says he's been consistent on matters like health care reform or abortion. Thank God there's at least one guy on the stage who knows he's fibbing.

Romney is the richest person running for president, worth somewhere between $190 million and $250 million. Most of that came from his work at Bain Capital, a firm that bought up troubled companies and gave them makeovers. Although many people lost their jobs when Bain Capital reeled in their employers, Romney's work did create a lot of new value. Which, on occasion, Bain Capital walked away with, leaving the remnants of the company flopping helplessly on the beach.

In 2010, Mitt earned somewhere between $9.6 million and $43.2 million, according to The National Journal's calculation of his financial reports. I believe I speak for us all when I say that there seems to be a lot of room in the middle of that estimate, but you get the idea. Much of that came from investments, but Romney also gets quite a bit of cash for making speeches. He once made $68,000 for one appearance before the International Franchise Association in Las Vegas.

People, if you were raking in more than $9.6 million a year, would you waste your time talking to the International Franchise Association? Perhaps you would if international franchises were especially close to your heart. But, in that case, why charge them $68,000? There are a lot of mysteries in the Mitt saga. For instance, if you were a very wealthy father of five energetic young boys, would you choose to spend your vacation driving the whole family to Canada with the dog strapped to the roof of the car? Wouldn't it be more fun to take a plane to Disneyland?

Some of the Republican candidates seem to have no visible means of support whatsoever — like Rick Santorum, who has seven kids. You would hate to think they were going without shoes just so Dad could continue his never-ending quest to break into the 5 percent range in the polls.

But, good news! Santorum made at least $970,000 in 2010, in all those mysterious ways unsuccessful Republican candidates for president seem to have of making money. Part of it came from being a commentator for Fox News, and part of it came from Santorum's work at — yes! — a think tank.

Rick Perry does not have a vast fortune, although he is blessed with friends who fly him around on private jets, take him on cool vacations and, occasionally, sell him real estate at bargain-basement prices. This week, Perry laced into Barack Obama as a man who could not possibly understand what ordinary Americans were going through because he "grew up in a privileged way." This is a strange way to describe the president's upbringing — particularly when Romney, the guy Perry is actually supposed to be running against, was the son of the head of American Motors. Maybe he got the two mixed up.

All I can tell you is this: Rick Perry will never be paid by a tank to think.

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