Fox News contributor Fred Barnes on the GOP payroll?

We pointed out back in April that Fred Barnes was one of many, many Fox News figures who have engaged in activism for Republican candidates or causes. Specifically, we noted that Barnes had keynoted fundraisers for Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and for the Palm Beach County Republican Party.

Today,'s Joe Conason reports that Premiere Speakers Bureau, the firm that books Barnes' speaking engagements, was paid $5,500 the month before Barnes' Palm Beach appearance. He also reports on payments to Premiere for two other Barnes appearances at GOP fundraisers:

Now, however, there is further evidence that Barnes not only routinely helped Republicans raise money as a banquet speaker, but accepted tens of thousands of dollars from party organizations as well:

  • In February 2006, Barnes was paid $10,000 plus travel expenses by Oregon's Lane County Republican Central Committee to deliver the keynote address at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. (Thanks to Carla Axtman for research assistance.) These payments, recorded in filingswith the Oregon secretary of state, were evidently made through the Premier Speakers Bureau of Franklin, Tenn., which represents other Fox personalities including Sean Hannity, Dick Morris and Mike Huckabee. Barnes is no longer listed on the Premier website, but the company did not respond to phone or e-mail inquiries about its relationship with him.
  • In February 2007, Barnes spoke at the annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinnerheld by the Republican Party of Fort Bend County, Texas -- home of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who purchased a ticket to the event. The party organization's filing with the Texas Ethics Commission shows two payments of $5,000 each on April 26, 2007, to Premiere Speakers Bureau (with the notation “LRD 2007 Speaker - Fred Barnes”) and travel expenses of $1,823. Photos of a smiling Barnes with various local dignitaries at the event, which netted a reported $70,000 for the party, can be viewed here.
  • In early March 2008, Barnes served as the keynote speaker for the Republican Party of Palm Beach County at its annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Whether he received the customary $10,000 is not clear because the party's filing with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections show only a single payment of $5,500 to Premiere Speakers Bureau on Feb. 18. The committee reported net $120,000 in net proceeds from the event.