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10 Pundits Who Profit From Politics

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BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- There's a reason you'll probably never see Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann run for public office.

It is not so much that they could only be elected in the most partisan of districts. Nor is it for lack of ego or fear of skeletons in the closet. The simple answer: They wouldn't want the massive pay cut.

Political life may be a good job at a good wage compared with what most lower- and middle-class Americans earn slaving away at Wal-Mart(WMT) or on construction sites. But the big money comes from talking about politics, influencing the electorate and being a flag-waver for whatever end of the ideological spectrum they call home.

To say the talkers earn as much as celebrities misses the point that they are celebrities, entertaining the like-minded and infuriating critics all the way to the bank. Former President George W. Bush remarked, likely wide-eyed and grinning, that he planned on making a "ridiculous" amount of money, "replenishing the ol' coffers," once out of the White House

Just how much money do America's top pundits make? That's a question that offers another reason why many would likely be hard-pressed to throw their hat in any ring. Financial disclosure would be a requirement for public office, and telling the world how wealthy they have become could undermine their message or turn off audiences working hard to make ends meet.

Nevertheless, leaked contract details and various bits of public data give at least a hint at the fortunes some have amassed.

The following are 10 pundits and former politicians who have financially benefited from their bloviating:

Sarah Palin
As governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin earned $125,000 a year. Since resigning midterm in 2009, the "mama grizzly" has boosted her bank account by millions.

Some media estimates, including one often-cited stab at a tally by ABC News, was that Palin earned close to $12 million in speaking engagements and TV and book deals during her first year out of office. That accounting was later challenged by Forbes as overstating the income from her first book, the best-selling Going Rogue, published by HarperCollins.

ABC claimed to have sources that put the paycheck near $7 million; Forbes says the amount was probably closer to $2.5 million. In support of the second estimate is that Palin was forced to report $1.25 million she got as the first of two payments for her book deal, since the check was cashed while she was still in office. The book went on to sell more than 2 million copies and was followed by America by Heart .

Book money aside, Palin earned roughly $250,000 an episode for her now-canceled reality series about Alaska on the Learning Channel. She's also made big money on the speaking circuit, charging about $100,000 for every paid speech.