Barack Obama Lands $1.9 Million Book Deal

Obama lands $1.9 million book deal (Chicago Sun-Times)

Leveraging his best-selling memoir, Sen.-elect Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is poised to sign a three-book deal landing him a $1.9 million advance. The package includes a $200,000 payment for a children’s volume that will be donated to charity. The deal was announced by Obama’s office Friday but is contingent on the approval of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, a panel which routinely reviews book contracts for sitting senators for any violation of conflict-of- interest and other rules governing the conduct of senators and their staffers. No Senate regulations prevent Obama from signing a contract for a book before he is sworn into office Jan. 4.

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Obama’s first book was the autobiographical Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance that centered on Obama’s search for identity as the son of a black man from Kenya who he never really knew and a white mother from Kansas who brought him up in Hawaii and Indonesia. Printed in 1995 — and largely ignored — the book was reissued after Obama won the Illinois Democratic primary. It hit the best-seller lists after Obama delivered the keynote address in July. The memoir is in its 16th printing, according to Gibbs, with 350,000 copies in print.

The big book deal may help relieve Obama of some financial concerns. Obama said at the end of July that he had taken out a second mortgage and was worried whether his Senate salary of $158,100 a year would be enough.

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Many senators write books. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) — also represented by Barnett — reportedly received an $8 million advance for her best-selling autobiography, Living History. That deal, signed before she became a senator, sparked controversy because of the size of the advance. She later submitted the contract to the Senate ethics panel, which ruled it complied with Senate rules.

I don’t really have a problem with either Obama or Clinton’s book, in that they’re legitimate books published by a legitimate press and being purchased by actual readers. While I admit to a bit of unease over politicians cashing in on their fame while still in office, it’s difficult to see how their floor votes would be affected in such a case. The problem comes with pseudo-books, such as the one former Speaker Jim Wright carted around with him when he addressed lobbying groups and sold by the case at said events. Drawing that line is somewhat difficult but congressional rules now forbid such direct sales.

Of course, I thought that about Newt Gingrich’s book deal that he signed right after the GOP took back the Congress and the public outcry forced him to refuse a rather sizable advance. I presume kos felt the same way.

Dave Johnson, meanwhile, adopts the contrary view, which he applies to both Gingrich and Obama.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.