Former Texas Democratic congressman and Speaker of the House Jim Wright has died at age 92.
As Speaker, Wright was a hyper-partisan that ran roughshod over the Republican minority while committing sleazy ethical lapses. As Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) once noted, “Jim Wright was like an evil fog that floated over everyone’s head.”
Alas, Wright’s death means I’ll never get a chance to get him to sign my copy of Reflections of a Public Man.*
It’s a slender collection of personal reflections and pithy aphorisms that even at 117 pages is badly padded. It was also a blatant scam to bypass congressional limits on personal honorarium.
The real focus of the marketing effort for Reflections of a Public Man was on bulk sales to trade associations and other groups. Almost 98% of all sales of “Reflections of a Public Man” were bulk sales of 15 or more books. In some instances, Wright’s staff informed various groups Wright spoke to that because he had already reached the maximum limit on outside earned income for that year, he would not be able to keep an honorarium offered to him. The staff then recommended that instead of paying Wright an honorarium, the organization could purchase books for the same amount . . .
For example,) Wright spoke at a Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Assn. trade show in September, 1985, just several weeks after SBCA had purchased 1,680 copies of “Reflections of a Public Man” for $10,000. SBCA testified that although it historically has paid honoraria and expenses to congressmen for their appearances, in this case SBCA’s legal counsel, who arranged for Wright to speak at the trade show, suggested that SBCA purchase the books instead. Thus, Wright received a $5,500 “royalty” for his appearances before the SBCA.
So that works out to a 55% royalty rate. 10-15% royalties for hardbacks is industry standard. It’s possible that J. K. Rowling and Stephen King might (might) get as much as 25%. If J.K. Rowling demanded a 55% royalty rate, her publisher would have no choice but to turn her down, since they’d be losing money on every book sold.
Through Wright resigned, his strong-handed tactics helped lead to the rise of Newt Gingrich and his Contract With America, which helped pave the way for the 1994 Republican takeover of the House. (And don’t let the New York Times obituary fool yeah; Wright had squat to do with bringing peace to Nicaragua, which was achieved through the pressure of the Reagan Doctrine and the crumbling of the Eastern block, which finally realized it was too broke to prop out communist dictators in Central America.)
*Though I did get Newt Gingrich to sign it…
(Hat tip: Dwight.)