PEWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CNN) – Mike Huckabee will interrupt a campaign swing through Wisconsin for two days on Friday to travel to the Cayman Islands as the keynote speaker at the Young Caymanian Leadership Awards, a speech he will be paid for.
Huckabee defended his decision go on the trip as he fights for the Republican nomination, pointing out that he is the only candidate without a steady paycheck. "I think people of America who understand that you've got to work for a living and pay your bills recognize that that's exactly what I ought to be doing," Huckabee told CNN. "I can't imagine anybody, except maybe one of my opponents, having a problem with it. But they're so used to having the taxpayers fund their day-to-day existence plus all the perks that go with that."
As soon as reporters broached the subject, Huckabee bristled. "I'm the only person who doesn't get paid by the taxpayers to campaign," he said testily. "Sen. Obama, Sen. Clinton, Sen. McCain, they campaign every day and I'm paying for their campaigns. I'm paying because I'm a taxpayer, and I have to pay for their Senate salaries even if they are not on duty."
Since leaving office in January 2007, the former Arkansas governor has made his money from book sales and speaking engagements. The campaign says he averaged about two speeches per month leading up to the Fall and that this one has been scheduled for months. The last speech he was paid for was in late December but Huckabee donated the $10,000 he received from it to his church in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Around the same time, The Politico reported that Huckabee commands up to $25,000 for an appearance.
Huckabee has long been a critic of offshore banking – the industry that besides tourism the Cayman Islands is best known for – saying that it is a major drain in the U.S. economy. Asked if he would address the issue while in the Caymans, Huckabee shot back, "Let's get something straight. I'm not going to be taking money and parking it in the Cayman Islands, I'm going get enough money to come back and pay about 40% in taxes on what I earned. There's a big difference."
He seemed to be joking when he then added, "I may go down there and visit one of the post office boxes where some of the other candidates have their money and maybe one of those banks and see what it looks like down there. But I'm going to make a speech, that's it. That's what I do."
Huckabee also linked the sizeable sum going to the IRS to his opponents. "I'm paying taxes, they're taking the taxes that I'm going to pay coming back and they'll be able to live off it. I think that's a pretty good deal for them and a pretty lousy one for me."
This will be the second time Huckabee has spoken at the event. The campaign will resume its schedule on Sunday night with a rally in Wisconsin ahead of the state's primary on Tuesday.