Mitt Romney’s Legal, Clever…Deceitful and Unethical Speaking Deal

Thank you. Mitt Romney. I mean it. I am grateful. I am frequently asked for an example of how a business tactic can be completely legal  and yet unethical all the same. Your brilliant double-deception is one for the ages.

Here is how it works: Romney, as former governor, a potential presidential candidate, a celebrity and a guy who looks great in a suit, is popular on the public speaking circuit. But unlike most of his competition. Romney will speak for free. Well, not exactly for free: he requires the organization engaging him to purchase between $25,000 and $50,000 worth of his book, No Apology: the Case for American Greatness, discounted for bulk sales, of course. And why not? Mitt Romney is a millionaire many times over. He doesn’t need the $50,000 fee, but he does need the forced book sales (the $50,000, applied to a discount, adds about 300o purchases to his total)  the cache of having written a best-selling book on national policy. This will enhance his reputation, allows him to call himself a “best-selling author” in print and in introductions, and make him appear both wise and influential, though at the moment he really has no job—other than running for President.

And there is his name right near the top of the New York Times Best Seller list! It works!  (Yes, there’s an asterisk, indicating bulk sales, but who pays attention to asterisks?) Presence on the Times list boosts individual sales of a book, too. You’re in an airport, you’re getting ready to board, and there’s Mitt’s book, in the special “New York Times Best Seller” section many book stores have. “Hey, this must be good…after all, everybody’s reading it,” you think, and you buy it.

I haven’t read Romney’s book, though it is reportedly not bad as “this is my view of the world and America so elect me your leader” books go. His scheme, however, is magnificent in its productive deceit. Consider:

  • It allows him to claim that he speaks for “no fee,” which is literally true.
  • It sets up a perfect “bait and switch,” in which inquirers are told that the Governor indeed doesn’t ask for fees but…
  • The book arrangement allows the organization to include an amount in what they charge to audiences for Romney to cover the costs of the book, passing it on to those who attend hs speech.
  • The forced sales of the book, many of which will never be read or even taken out of crates, sends the book up the Best Seller list, providing publicity for Romney and the book and…
  • By definition making the book a “best-seller” and Romney the author of a best-seller, a “best-selling author.”

Wow. I am in awe. I have always distrusted Romney, who has flipped all over the ideological spectrum according to who he was trying to appeal to, as kind of a Republican John Edwards, all facade and no substance. I still distrust him, but a guy who can come up with a scam like this is going to be a force in Washington, D.C.

But seriously, misleading and unethical deals go, this one is impressive. I doubt that it is original with Romney, but thanks to the revelation of Romney’s use of it by Politico, I have a better understanding how other speaker/authors like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Marc Levin and assorted business executives and self-help gurus manage land on the best seller lists so quickly after their books are published. I’m sure someone less naive and smarter than me will write in and say, “You boob! This is the oldest trick in the publishing game!” Maybe it is, but if so, it has fooled me for years, and has fooled a lot of other people too.

It is still unethical, and is just the example I’ve been looking for..

8 thoughts on “Mitt Romney’s Legal, Clever…Deceitful and Unethical Speaking Deal

  1. How refreshingly and sweetly naive of you! This book scam has been going on for decades. The only surprise is that it hasn’t become a scandal yet.

    I do think that it is less prevalent in the world of fiction, though I may be wrong. But it seems to me that fiction writers don’t have political parties and PACs behind them and no elections ride on their popularity. (Maybe it’s a good thing that T.S. Eliot didn’t have a PAC, but then again maybe Mit Romney shouldn’t have one, either.)

  2. We’re babes in the same woods, Jack.

    Sheesh. As the old Bugs Bunny malapropism used to go, “What a maroon!” I had no clue.

    I really want to see who else is pulling this scam. The NYT Best-seller list has just become meaningless. What author of a political book does not do speeches or public appearances? I think we can fairly deduce that if Romney is doing it, it is being done everywhere.

    • Well, good…if this was new to you too, I don’t feel so bad. Exactly right about the Times list: if all it takes to get one’s book on it are bulk orders in this kind of exchange, how do we know if anyone is is reading a “best seller”?

    • I didn’t get into that, because it’s just possible that Mitt wrote his own book. He’s capable of it, and lord knows he has the time. Most assume that it’s ghost written, and that would be my bet, but I thought it was unfair to just presume. If ghostwritten, of course, the book is a total fraud in nearly every way possible.

      • I just assume anything written under the name of someone famous (other than being famous for being an author) is ghost written. It may not be fair, but it is probably correct 90+% of the time.

  3. Pingback: Eliot Spitzer, the Harvard Club, and Blackball Ethics « Ethics Alarms

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