Tea party dispute spotlights Sarah Palin's speaking fees
When the Washington Speakers Bureau exclusively signed Sarah Palin last fall, it expected to get a lot of attention, but a new defamation lawsuit between battling conservatives is bringing more than it bargained for.
The prestigious booking agency ("Connecting with the World's Greatest Minds") boasts a stable of A-listers who command big bucks for speeches around the globe, including George and Laura Bush (and daughter Jenna), Tony Blair, Katie Couric, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and many more. When Palin signed a deal in September, she began sifting through 1,000 speaking requests.
Palin and the company have repeatedly refused to disclose her fees, but a suit filed last week by Tennessee businessman Bill Hemrick against Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips is lifting the veil on her sky-high price tag. Phillips wanted Palin as the keynote speaker for February's tea party convention and asked millionaire Hemrick for $25,000 as a partial deposit for Palin's $100,000 contract. Hemrick agreed, according to the suit, in the belief that the for-profit Tea Party Nation would help with his own political action committee.
After Palin was booked, the two men had a falling-out -- Phillips repaid Hemrick's money but banned him from the convention. Now, Hemrick is suing for $500,000 in damages, claiming Phillips used his cash, acted in bad faith and damaged his reputation. Tea Party Nation spokeswoman Sherry Phillips said Washington Speakers Bureau "approved" Hemrick as a lending source, but she had no further comment.
"My client is not in the business of being a lender or financier," Hemrick's lawyer Phillip Jones told us Tuesday. "He only agreed to provide financial assistance to Mr. Phillips because he thought it was part of a larger reciprocal relationship to support certain common beliefs."
Washington Speakers Bureau did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The Reliable Source
March 31, 2010; 1:03 AM ET
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