Pur­chases of Obama books wane, ex­cept at the State Depart­ment

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JIM MCELHATTON

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.

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