Purchases of Obama books wane, except at the State Department
President Obama took a big hit financially last year because of plummeting book sales that cut into his royalties, but he still has his State Department as a customer.
Despite criticism in 2011 over the practice, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Paris recently spent $15,000 on copies of two of Mr. Obama’s book titles, according to the government’s online procurement database.
A State Department spokesman, Peter Velasco, said Wednesday that embassies make decisions on what books to buy based on the interests of the host countries.
“Broadly speaking, the Department of State has historically purchased books for the purpose of engaging with key foreign contacts and host country citizens interested in learning about the United States,” he said.
He said the collections at the embassies include volumes on history, politics and culture, and include other books by U.S. presidents.
The government’s online purchasing database doesn’t say what titles the embassy in Paris bought, nor which bookseller received the $14,750.
The short contract description posted online describes the buy as “Book Obama, 2 titles,” but it’s hardly the first time Parisians have been treated to Mr. Obama’s literary oeuvre courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
In 2011, The Washington Times reported that U.S. embassies worldwide had paid at least $70,000 on Obama books during the first few years of his presidency, leading to criticism from taxpayer watchdog groups and a sharp letter from a congressman who demanded a halt to the practice.
A Republican House member sent a letter to the State Department complaining about the purchase. That same day, the embassy in Paris spent $8,700 on what the federal procurement database described as “Les reves de mon pere, by Barack Obama.”
That’s a reference to Mr. Obama’s 1995 book, “Dreams from My Father.”
Just months before that purchase, the embassy spent more than $11,000 on “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters,” Mr. Obama’s 2010 children’s book.
Mr. Obama’s income as an author has been on the decline. On tax forms, he reported $104,000 last year compared with more than $250,000 in 2012. In 2009, the Obamas reported making more than $5 million thanks largely to book sales, though he also donated his $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize award to charity.
Mr. Obama gets a cut of each book sale, though his royalties from any State Department purchases would be a small fraction of his overall literary earnings.
On financial disclosure forms, Mr. Obama has reported earning 15 percent of the U.S. price for hardcover sales of his 2008 campaign tome “The Audacity of Hope” and 7.5 percent for paperback sales.
In 2011, when The Times reported on more than $70,000 in book sales to the State Department, officials said they had purchased other books by presidents, though no reference could be found to books by either President Clinton or President George W. Bush in purchasing records.