May 20, 2009
Obama may earn Millions from Schools in Book Deal
Obama may earn millions from taxpayer-funded schools in his new book deal.
Five days before taking the oath of office, President-elect Barack Obama signed a book deal with Crown Publishing Group to publish a version of his best-selling book, "Dreams from My Father", aimed at middle school and young adult age groups. Obama would receive a $500,000 advance payment against royalties, plus ongoing royalty payments. Some in the media have questioned the propriety of this deal from the angle that the President might be unduly influenced by Bertelsmann AG, the German based media publishing empire which owns Random House, which is the parent company of Crown Publishing.
But there is a far larger dynamic at work. Random House and Crown are interested in selling books. And most middle and high school students do not buy lots of books, but the schools they attend do. So we presume that Crown Publishing will primarily pitch the book to schools along with libraries.
The real issue then becomes the tremendous influence that President Obama now enjoys over the spending plans of thousands of school districts which just received $44.5 Billion from the Stimulus Bill plus additional billions in the Omnibus Spending Bill, both of which Obama signed.
When Random House marketing professionals call on school districts and the state-level education departments to place the book, they will more likely be treated as purveyors of hope than annoying salespersons.
In addition, the teacher unions, such as the National Education Association, supported Obama overwhelmingly during the past election as they did the Democratic candidates for House and Senate seats, and the additional federal dollars the schools received in a time of need will not be forgotten.
The current version of Obama's book is already targeted for use by high school students according to the Random House website, and the abridged, easy-to-read version should be an even easier sell. Students will also appreciate the shorter version as they write their book reports.
President George W. Bush placed his assets in a blind trust when he became President to avoid any appearance of impropriety, but President Obama has not followed suit. Instead, he signed on to this business venture just before becoming President despite his campaign promise that there would be change in the way business is conducted in Washington.
The editorial pages have been silent on this aspect of the book deal. But when one considers that the ranks of the Fourth Estate are filled with book authors and would be book authors, it is no surprise that neither reporters nor editorial writers find fault with Obama's book deal. Writing books is considered to be a noble profession so perhaps they cannot attach the stigma of "influence peddling" to it.
James Taranto, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal (where he also quoted from my recent NY Daily News Op-Ed on Obama's personal finances)
A less charitable observer, or one less inclined to paralipsis, might characterize Obama's book royalties as more of a "get-rich-quick scheme" than a "quality product." But in any case, they passed the marketplace test, so more power to him.
But the marketplace to which he referred, is the unfettered retail market, not the academic market. We suspect that no President since Woodrow Wilson has enjoyed such unabashed support from academia as Obama. Thus the marketplace in this case is not only heavily biased, but beholden as well.
The Obama family has relied heavily on book sales to help them maintain their upper middle class lifestyle as we have chronicled previously. With Michelle Obama's purchase of such apparel as $540 Lanvin sneakers recently, it appears that there is a continuing need for more book royalties to keep the First Family looking fashionably chic. Plus, the Obama's two children attend the exclusive Sidwell private school in Washington, DC where tuition is $28,000 each.
There is political advantage to Obama (and the Democrats) as well. If this book is largely incorporated into the reading curriculum, students currently in high school will be of voting age when Obama presumably runs for reelection in 2012, and this inspirational book may help them decide how to cast their ballots in both Presidential and Congressional elections.
When Obama accepted help from now convicted felon, Tony Rezko, in purchasing his spacious home in Chicago, he described the decision as "boneheaded", but that was only after reporters questioned him about it. Yet his book deal will be far more lucrative to Obama than the house deal, but the reporters have yet to ask the right questions.
The premise is that the MSM have ignored the school sales angle of the book deal. I have searched and cannot find any media raising it.