Now that she no longer has to fritter away her time running for the White House, Elizabeth Dole is free to devote herself to her true calling: self-promotion. Dole has raked in more than $1.6 million in speaking fees since the beginning of last year, usually at $40,000 per appearance.
"While I may not be a candidate for the presidency in 2000, I'm a long way from twilight," Dole promised supporters as she bowed out of the race on Wednesday.
The job of keeping Dole in the limelight falls to the numerous speakers bureaus that book her on the banquet trail. She is also affiliated with International Management Group, the renowned celebrity agency that brokers sports superstars Tiger Woods, Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, Andre Agassi and Arnold Palmer. The agency has also represented violinist Itzhak Perlman, supermodel Tyra Banks, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.
Dole followed her husband and fellow White House hopeful to IMG, which worked with his image after he lost the presidential race in 1996. Bob Dole filmed commercials for Visa and Air France, appeared on the network TV program "Suddenly Susan" and popped in on several late-night talk shows. IMG set up Bob Dole Enterprises Inc., a for-profit operation, to handle the income he receives from speaking and commercial endorsements -- like his widely aired television commercials for Viagra.
Now that Elizabeth Dole is out of politics, IMG will be ready, willing and able to help her cash in on her heightened celebrity status and her campaign-financed mailing lists -- and, of course, to put her back on the speaking circuit. (Neither IMG nor the speakers bureaus would comment on upcoming appearances or endorsements.)
Several of Dole's previous speaking engagements were inherited directly from her husband. At least five of the 43 organizations she spoke to in 1998 and the first half of 1999 were groups that her husband had been speaking to for years.
Bob Dole was no stranger to the speaking circuit. He collected $1.4 million in appearance fees from 1981 to 1991 -- Senate rules in effect at the time prevented him from accepting more than $2,000 per speech. New rules set in the early 1990s barred senators from keeping such fees, but placed no such restrictions on their spouses. Elizabeth Dole's speaking career took off almost overnight. From 1991 to 1994 -- while her husband was still a senator -- she spoke to at least 16 high-paying organizations that had business pending before the government.
Bob Dole temporarily ceased making paid appearances during each of his presidential campaigns. Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley, who collected more than $1.6 million from personal appearances in 1998, took himself off the speaking circuit when he launched his presidential bid. But Elizabeth Dole continued accepting speaking fees right through her campaign. In the first seven weeks after she formed her "exploratory committee," Dole made nine paid appearances before various organizations and audiences. In 1998, Dole averaged two to three paid appearances a month; in March and April of this year, she doubled her schedule of paid appearances.
At the American Red Cross, Dole likewise used her job to boost her profile -- and speaking fees. Although she was president of the charity through the end of 1998, none of the money for the 29 speeches she made that year went to the Red Cross. While Dole took large fees for her speeches, her predecessor -- Richard Schubert, president of the American Red Cross from 1982 to 1990 -- usually either spoke for free or took a fee in the form of a donation. (Dole was prohibited from accepting speaking fees while she served as a Cabinet secretary, though she did take in $100,000 in fees during the year between her stints at the Transportation and Labor departments.)
Throughout her husband's presidential campaigns, Dole tried to deflect criticism of her seemingly mercenary speaking habits by repeatedly promising to donate the money to charity. But of the $875,000 in speaking fees she earned from 1991 to 1994, only $405,513 -- just 46 percent -- went to charitable organizations. The rest went to cover her personal expenses, and to her substantial retirement fund. (In response to heavy criticism in the wake of a January 1996 story in the Los Angeles Times about her tight-fisted giving, Dole blamed her accountant for the errors and made an additional charitable contribution of $75,000.)
The lucky recipient of all of Dole's donations was none other than the American Red Cross -- where she was a $185,000-a-year employee, and which, under her leadership, was facing one of the most severe financial crises of its 100-plus-year history.
Throughout 1998, Dole continued to claim her fees went to charity. But she no longer gave to the Red Cross. Much of the proceeds from her speaking engagements went to a nonprofit called the Elizabeth Dole Charitable Foundation -- a creation of a Cleveland accounting firm called Investment Advisors International, itself a subsidiary of IMG. Of the $1,136,000 in speaking fees that Dole received in 1998, $602,458 went to the foundation,
according to her financial disclosure form and her foundation's tax return. (The rest of the money went to taxes and to another generous contribution to her retirement plan, according to Robert P. Davis, Dole's longtime lawyer and one of the foundation's three directors.)
The Dole Charitable Foundation has no staff, no office and no stated mission. Davis described it as "an Elizabeth Dole-only foundation" -- Dole is its president and sole manager. She is the only person who puts money in, and the only one who can take money out.
And she doesn't take much out. As a candidate she stressed the importance of charity and community-based organizations. But her personal foundation is hoarding the cash she puts into it. In 1998, she gave away only $29,157 of more than $1 million in assets -- the minimum required by law to maintain her foundation status. The largest donation was a $10,000 gift to the National Presbyterian Church, which she attends; next-largest was a $5,000 donation to a scholarship fund at her alma mater, Duke University. Lesser donations were made to Christian charities, humane societies and other mainstream causes.
And what did the former candidate -- who proposed to bolster America's educational system by granting tax breaks designed to encourage charitable contributions -- give to her local schools? Nothing.