With news of Lou Dobbs taking a job at Fox Business News, it's worth wondering if he will now continue to sell himself as a speaker to the highest bidder through the Washington Speakers Bureau, which lists him as a client. Sure enough, I just confirmed with the WSB that yes, Dobbs is still available as a speaker-for-hire, and no, they couldn't tell me how much they charge to book him.
That said, a quick look at the WSB's website indicates that Dobbs is considered "Fee Code 6" which means that he goes for "$40,001 & up." As I reported recently, there's at least 46 prominent TV pundits and journalists listed as "available" speakers through the WSB, which does not publicly disclose how much they get paid, or more importantly, who pays them.
In May, 2010, Dobbs was the keynote speaker at the National Tea Party Convention. Judson Philips, Founder and President of Tea Party Nation said:
Lou Dobbs is an electrifying personality who says what's on his mind and backs it up with his knowledge and experience throughout his journalistic career.
Lou Dobbs is many things. But "an electrifying personality"? How much did Lou donate to the Tea Party for that quote?
Dobbs also spoke at the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention on October 9, 2010. Granted, Dobbs at the time was just another unemployed American who lost his job during the Obama years. So, I certainly don't begrudge him making a buck. But I wonder how many of his fellow Tea Partiers knew just how much he was getting paid, and where that money was coming from.
Perhaps more disturbing than his political speeches, given Lou's newfound position at FoxBusiness, is if he'll continue to give speeches to companies traded on the NYSE. On July 25, 2010, Lou was the keynote speaker at "RiskSummit2010" at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, CA, organized by the publicly traded "property information and analytics business" CoreLogic (formerly The First American Corp. - one of the nation's largest title insurance companies).
Lou also traveled to the Persian Gulf for the commencement address at the American University in Dubai in June, 2010. In March, 2005, he spoke at Indiana University's "Network Financial Institute's Regulatory Reform Summit. That same year, he spoke to the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters association. OK, maybe there he was an electrifying personality.
One interesting quote is from the National Auto Auction Association which said of Dobbs:
"Lou Dobbs was a certified hit for us. His presentation was great and he received a standing ovation."
According to its website, the National Auto Auction Association had Dobbs as its keynote speaker in 2002 while he was still hosting CNN's Moneyline, and Dobbs actually contributed $30,000 that night to a charity auction.
Am I suggesting that Lou should forgo all paid speeches? Maybe. Some TV journalists make a point of not doing them. But that's between Lou and his new employer.
At the very least, though, I'd like to propose a new database for all respectable news agencies to publicly disclose outside income for their paid journalists and pundits. As we learned with the Keith Olbermann flap, if they require who they're giving money to, it would be just as useful to learn who they're getting money from, too.