|Newt Gingrich, Michele
Bachmann, and Herman Cain before his campaign crashed, have taken book promotion
to new heights. Gingrich regularly conducts book signings at campaign stops,
where customers paying $25 might reasonably assume they are aiding the Gingrich
election fund, while in fact the money is going straight to Newt and Callista
Gingrich’s private company.
Mrs. Gingrich sells her children's book at her husband’s campaign stops,
and the Gingrich for President website enables visitors to purchase the full
catalog of earlier Gingrich titles.
Bachmann’s recent campaign tour through South Carolina revolved around
appearances at bookstores and, according to The Wall Street Journal, the trip
was paid for by her publisher. Is she staying in the race despite shrinking poll
numbers to sell more books?
Candidates are prohibited by law from profiting personally from campaign activities.
But the Federal Election Commission was deadlocked this year in deciding whether
candidates could host campaign events in places where publishers had paid them
to travel. That opened the door to the current book-selling juggernaut.
John McCain and Barack Obama each had books out during the 2008 campaign,
but neither hawked them at campaign appearances. Gingrich and Bachmann, on the
other hand, routinely hold campaign events in bookstores.
While Cain was in the race, his campaign aides expressed frustration that
travel plans were geared to book promotion rather than wooing votes in key states.
Even a wannabe like Donald Trump, who can’t seem to decide if he wants
to run for president or just threaten to do so, has just published a book outlining
his plans to rescue the nation.
Of the current candidates, only Mitt Romney has disclosed how much has been
earned from book deals. Romney reportedly received more than $100,000 in royalties,
and gave it to charity. Gingrich, Bachmann and the others won’t say.
Beyond money, writing a book – usually with help from a scholarly collaborator – provides
a handy crutch in debates and on the stump. “It’s all in my book,” is
the go-to answer when the questions get tough.
Sometimes, however, a book causes candidates to eat their words. Rick Perry’s
case was a classic, when he talked about his highly controversial book on the “Today” show
just a few months before announcing his candidacy.
"If there is a better signal of my plan for the future of not running
for the presidency of the United States, it's this book," Perry said in
November 2010. "Anyone running for the presidency is not going to take on
these issues with the power that I do."
Sometimes selling books is more difficult than attracting votes. According
to The Journal, Bachmann’s publisher encouraged a bookstore in Iowa to
buy 400 copies of the candidate’s book. The store opted for 200, and wound
up selling 11.
The campaign that hasn’t even reached the voting stage continues to
find new ways to make the political process into a media sideshow. There’s
nothing wrong with authoring a book, but it’s discomfiting to watch the
degree to which the current candidates are marketing their wares.
Ron Paul, who has written several books, has one on the market perfectly geared
to the season. Not the campaign season, the holiday season. It’s the new
edition of the “Ron Paul Family Cookbook.”
(c) Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed by the Cagle Syndicate.