(PART 1 OF 2)

This article is adapted from the book Hot Air (C) 1996 by Howard Kurtz. Reprinted with the permission of Times Books, a division of Random House Inc. Celebrity Journalists take big bucks from corporations and interest groups, while claiming that they couldn't possably be influenced. Is it any wonder the public sees them as part of the corrupt insider class?

Sam Donaldson is trying to convince me that he's just a regular guy.

He has invited me to lunch at a fancy eatery on Connecticut Avenue after reading a story in which I discussed the breathtaking level of his compensation. Turning on his considerable charm, he explains that despite his famous face and his millionaire's salary and his 27,000-acre New Mexico ranch, his daily life is pretty much like anyone else's, filled with the same disappointments and frustrations.

Unfortunately for Donaldson, the maitre d' chooses this moment to make a fuss over the ABC correspondent, marching over with a complimentary order of peppered tuna.

Give Donaldson his due: Whatever his tax bracket, he's still one of the hardest-working reporters around. But fairly or unfairly, he has become a symbol of the journalistic plutocracy. And his television fame, earned first as a White House correspondent for ABC and later as co-anchor of "PrimeTime Live" and resident liberal on "This Week With David Brinkley," has turned him into a bankable commodity, much in demand on the speaking circuit.

As we nibble on the free hors d'oeuvre, the latest flaps over his moonlighting are much on Donaldson's mind. In the spring of 1993, "PrimeTime" aired a report on a congressional junket to Florida sponsored by the Electronic Industries Association. ABC executives were embarrassed when it turned out that Donaldson had accepted a speaking fee from the same group.

In early 1994, the spotlight fell on Donaldson again just as "PrimeTime" was gearing up for another of its patented junket stories. This one involved a trip to Key West, Fla., for 30 congressional staff members, courtesy of the American Insurance Association and other insurance groups.

Two days before the report was to air, insurance officials decided to launch a preemptive strike. They leaked me a contract showing that Donaldson had accepted an honorarium the previous year from an insurance coalition that included, yes, the American Insurance Association. He had received first-class air fare for a speech at New York's Waldorf-Astoria, along with hotel accommodations and limousine service. His fee: $30,000.

Donaldson found himself in the awkward position of explaining why it was news when the insurance group paid for a trip for some Capitol Hill staffers, but perfectly kosher for him to accept a large check from the same folks.

He didn't miss a beat.

"I was not beholden to them and they were not beholden to me," he told me when I first called him about the issue. "I of course do not make the laws under which the insurance industry operates. I have not spoken about the laws affecting the insurance industry on the Brinkley show or in any of my pieces."

Donaldson, who was then making half a dozen speeches a year, dismissed as "a smoke screen" the notion that such speeches might influence his journalism. The hand-wringing over the issue, he says now in his deep baritone, has gone too far. "Suddenly there's a view that all of us making these high-money speeches are discrediting ourselves, and there's a great wave to reform," he declares. He pauses over the peppered tuna, as if imagining how his answer would play on camera.

"Appearances can be reality," he concedes. "I've covered politics long enough to understand that." The Practice Smells to High Heaven'

James J. Kilpatrick has described the practice of lawmakers accepting lucrative speaking fees as nothing less than a "scandal."

"Members of the House and Senate . . . accept invitations to speak to a trade association or other special-interest group," the conservative columnist wrote in the last weeks of the Reagan administration. "The member, often accompanied by his wife, goes to such agreeable spots as Boca Raton or Honolulu, makes a little talk and picks up a check for $2,000 plus travel expenses . . . The practice smells to high heaven."

Soon after that column was published, Kilpatrick, at the time a regular on "Agronsky & Company," was asked about his own practice of giving 20 to 25 paid speeches a year. "I think that's my own personal business," he declared, apparently failing to detect any unsavory odor from journalists taking corporate cash.

Kilpatrick is hardly alone in hiding behind such an embarrassing double standard. While Congress has since banned honoraria for its members, the market for reporters and pundits who speak to business audiences has never been hotter. Some big-name media people routinely receive $15,000, $30,000, even $50,000 for a single speech. And the bulk of that money comes from corporations and lobbying organizations with more than a passing interest in the issues the journalists write about and yak about for a living.

The key word here is "yak." Big-time journalism these days -- and especially Washington journalism -- is increasingly bound up with the talk show culture. And that culture is built upon a mountain of cash. The programs themselves, which cost little to produce, are quite profitable for their owners, bringing in plenty of advertising dollars from the likes of Ford and General Electric and Archer Daniels Midland. And they are extraordinarily profitable for the superstars of talk: Among the non-journalists, Rush Limbaugh earns an estimated $25 million a year, Howard Stern a cool $7 million, Don Imus $3 million, Larry King $2 million. Oprah Winfrey, who owns her syndicated show, could buy and sell her competitors several times over. Her net worth is roughly $200 million. Among the journalists, Sam Donaldson and Ted Koppel each pull down a salary of roughly $2 million a year.

Even below these stratospheric levels, the talk show world bestows all sorts of financial rewards. Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman, long a regular on "Washington Week in Review," was hired in the summer of 1994 to speak to a group of lawyers on a 12-day cruise from the Netherlands to Russia. Other longtime "Washington Week" panelists -- Paul Duke, Charles McDowell, Jack Nelson -- have taken all-expenses-paid luxury cruises to such places as Hong Kong and Singapore, organized by a Florida travel agency. "It's an easy way to visit a lot of places," Duke says.

Most lecture gigs don't come with a cruise attached, but that scarcely makes them less attractive, and Donaldson has plenty of company in the yakking for dollars line. William Safire, the New York Times columnist and frequent "Meet the Press" panelist, takes in $20,000 a speech. Cokie Roberts's fee is at least $20,000; the ABC and National Public Radio correspondent and commentator is estimated to have earned $300,000 from speechifying in a single year. Mike Wallace fetches at least $25,000 a speech. (Those who don't claim to be journalists make still more: Rush Limbaugh commands a $30,000 fee. Larry King receives $50,000 for each appearance, pulling in at least a million bucks a year. "Norman Schwarzkopf says it's white-collar crime," King reports with a chuckle.)

The formula for journalistic buckraking is simple and obvious: Get yourself on television and the corporate money will find you. Margaret Carlson, a Time columnist, says her speaking fee doubled (to about $10,000) after she became a weekly member of "The Capital Gang." "I just got on the gravy train, so I don't want it to end," she said before Time barred its staffers from accepting corporate speaking fees last year. Her Time colleague, Hugh Sidey, who once made up to 50 speeches a year, says his lecture income shriveled when he stopped appearing regularly on the now-defunct "Agronsky & Company."

"If you want to make enough money, you have to do television," says Jack Germond, the Baltimore Sun columnist and resident grouch on "The McLaughlin Group." ". . . If you're on one of these shows and then you're off, in six months your lecture money is gone."

To an outsider, the potential for corruption appears equally obvious. At the very least, the issue of journalists taking money from interest groups would seem a legitimate subject for public debate. Yet here is how these champions of the First Amendment, who have relentlessly poked and pried their way into other people's business, respond to reporters' questions about their paid speaking engagements:

"We are private citizens," says David Brinkley.

"I'm not an elected official," says Fred Barnes.

"I'm a totally private person," says Robert Novak.

"I'm a private citizen," says Chris Wallace.

"I'm not an elected official," says Gloria Borger.

"I'm not going to disclose it," says Al Hunt.

"I don't exercise the power of the state," says George Will.

"A private matter," says Robert MacNeil.

"That's private," says Hugh Sidey.

"I didn't do it for years, but it became more socially acceptable," says Michael Kinsley.

Indeed it has, at least within the insular and self-serving world of talk show journalism. But many readers and viewers would no doubt be appalled if they could see the web of potential conflicts of interest. And some members of Congress are downright angry that those who piously demand full disclosure from politicians insist that they get to play by a different set of rules.

"Their audience deserves to know if they pick up a fat check from a group they report on," Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson told The Washington Post a few years ago. "It applies to Congress, and it sure as hell ought to apply to this elite press corps in Washington."

"What I find most offensive lately," Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin told the New Yorker in 1994, "is that we get the sanctimonious-Sam defense: We're different because we don't write the laws.' Well, they have a hell of a lot more power than I do to affect the laws written."

By the summer of 1995, the resentment of journalistic buckrakers had reached new heights. West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, who had denounced reporters as "vultures" and "buzzards" after being ambushed outside his Virginia home by a "PrimeTime Live" crew, decided to get even. He introduced a resolution that reporters who receive credentials to cover the Senate should be required to reveal their outside income in financial disclosure forms. After stubbornly resisting voluntary disclosure for years, reporters had left themselves vulnerable to a maneuver that amounted to government licensing of journalists. Not a single senator spoke up on behalf of the press. The nonbinding resolution passed, 60 to 39. Byrd has threatened to make the rule mandatory, but so far, at least, that hasn't happened. Journalists and Other Blowhards

For journalists, getting a job with a prominent newspaper, magazine or network show was once an end in itself. But during the 1980s, many reporters and columnists were swept up by a celebrity culture that valued fame and glibness above all. There was an explosion of talk shows and cable networks and satellite networks, and they all needed guests with those little chyron captions beneath their names -- "Newsweek" or "The New Republic" or "The Wall Street Journal" -- that lent a degree of credibility and prestige. This proliferation of chat shows created a seemingly insatiable market for journalists and other blowhards who could fill up the time with the sound of gab.

And why not? Going on television is fun. Your mother thinks you're important. Your sources think you're important. The guy who fixes your car at the Exxon station recognizes you. You achieve an intangible cachet from spouting off on the tube, even if what you say is less than memorable. I should know, for I have also bathed in the ego-warming glow of the klieg lights, holding forth on various shows, from "Washington Week" to "Reliable Sources."

Yet for many of the regulars, particularly once-anonymous print types, televised fame meant more than just instant recognition. It seemed to unlock the door to a more tangible form of riches.

The programs themselves paid modest fees for panelists -- from, say, $300 on "Washington Week" to $600 on "McLaughlin" -- but that was just the beginning. There were all sorts of organizations out there -- corporations and trade associations and lobbying groups -- that needed speakers for their conventions, seminars and vacation retreats. They wanted big names, people who would impress their members. Booking agencies, which take a commission of 10 to 15 percent, took notice of TV's power. "Once you get one of those regular guest slots, your rates go up dramatically," says Susan Stautberg, whose New York firm, Master Media, has a speakers bureau. "People want you. You can say, As seen on David Brinkley or Washington Week.' "

The financial logic seemed irresistible. Christopher Matthews of the San Francisco Examiner, who hosts a nightly show on the America's Talking network, made more than 40 speeches in 1993. He does less speaking now but takes in $5,000 to $6,000 per appearance. "Three speeches matches your syndicated column income," Matthews says.

"It's amazingly lucrative," agrees Michael Kinsley, who stepped down as the co-host of "Crossfire" last month. (Kinsley won't reveal his fee.)

"It's hard to imagine being paid $20,000 for a speech," Paul Emerson, managing editor of the Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune, once said. "That's more than some of our reporters make in a year."

Small wonder that journalists whose faces were familiar from television began hiring agents, working up stump speeches and boarding airplanes to sunny climes. And small wonder that -- slowly, subtly, in at least three distinct ways -- the values of the profession began to change.

One, as we've seen, was the blurring of conflict-of-interest standards. In this television-dominated age, it is disingenuous at best for the nation's most prominent talking heads to claim they have little impact on public policy (and thus should be free to take interest-group money without disclosure). Who are they kidding? Certainly not the public, which increasingly sees journalists as part of a corrupt insider class.

A second change came as "what works on television" began to compete with more serious forms of journalism. The profession's center of gravity shifted from those who ask questions to those who seem to have all the answers. Writing a long, thoughtful piece was fine. Spending weeks poring over dusty documents was a public service. But television didn't care. The way to get the attention of television, to climb the ladder of talk success, was to shout, to polarize, to ridicule, to condemn, to elbow your way into the discussion, to utter the most outrageous comments in the shortest amount of time. Reporters took on exaggerated personas, boxing themselves into ideological corners, playing to the cameras.

"It's like a situation comedy and everyone plays their role," Newsweek's Eleanor Clift says of "McLaughlin." What works on television is simplicity, not subordinate clauses. Outlandish opinion-mongers tend to drown out everyone else. The middle ground, the sensible center, is dismissed as too squishy, too dull, too likely to send the audience channel surfing. Rhetoric heats up and consensus melts away. There was a time when "Jane, you ignorant slut!" was a great late-night gag; now the parody cuts uncomfortably close to reality. The whole point of the talk show business is not so much to persuade as to posture, to slam-dunk opponents and to build audience share.

The range of "debate" that unfolds on most television programs is almost laughably narrow. Few panelists challenge the underlying assumptions of official Washington; any argument that lacks significant support in Congress is blown off the radar screen as irrelevant. Problems that fall out of fashion with the Beltway establishment (say, homelessness) cease to exist on television, while issues that are in favor (say, family values) consume plenty of air time. Problems ignored by Congress (say, the savings and loan crisis) hit the talk circuit only after they explode into scandal.

Finally, journalism's values changed because many of those who yak for a living have lost touch with the vast majority of their audience. They exist in a hermetically sealed cocoon, rubbing shoulders only with other affluent insiders and rarely leaving town except to speak to paying audiences. They pontificate about welfare but have never actually spoken to a welfare mother. They hold forth on the decline of manufacturing but have never set foot in a factory, except perhaps with a politician on a handshaking tour. Firsthand knowledge or shoe-leather reporting is not a prerequisite in the talk world. With a few notable exceptions, just popping off fills the bill quite nicely.

Many journalists are now in income brackets that would have been unthinkable a generation ago, before the unholy union of journalism and televised entertainment. Although the pontificators vehemently deny it, this privileged status invariably skews their view of the world. They are part of the moneyed class, just like the people they report on.

When President Clinton raised income taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers in 1993, most of the talking heads took a hit. They were personally affected by a policy that had no effect on most Americans. This may have contributed to the widespread misimpression, confirmed in poll after poll, that Clinton had raised income taxes on the middle class. If taxes have gone up for you and all your friends, it's easy to get the idea that just about everyone is paying more.

When health care reform was at the top of the national agenda, many commentators argued that there was no health care crisis -- and indeed, for them and their well-heeled colleagues, there was not. They did not worry about rising premiums, or preexisting conditions, or losing health benefits after losing a job. The problems of the 37 million Americans without insurance were simply alien to their experience.

When the North American Free Trade Agreement was languishing in Congress, pundits across the political spectrum, from George Will to Michael Kinsley, rallied behind it, secure in the knowledge that they would not be among the factory employees or textile workers who might lose their jobs. It is easy to be for an abstraction -- free trade -- when the pain is inflicted on faraway individuals outside your professional and social circles. No television network was going to pull up stakes and move to Mexico for the cheap labor.

Public education is another issue much debated by TV commentators whose kids are safely ensconced in pricey private schools. When Clinton put his daughter, Chelsea, in Sidwell Friends, a $13,000-a-year private school in Northwest Washington, rather than one of the capital's public schools, the punditocracy rushed to his defense. Mark Shields praised Sidwell on "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour," but had to acknowledge that his children went there, as did Jim Lehrer's. Al Hunt supported Clinton's move on "Capital Gang," but had to make the same disclosure. Carl Rowan, whose grandchildren attended the school, did the same on "Inside Washington."

So much for the voice of the little guy. The Attraction in Having David Gergen'

David Gergen sounds a bit guilt-ridden on this point.

"Doing too many speeches can have a negative impact on your journalism," says the former Clinton aide and born-again commentator. "You're on a plane a lot. Particularly on television, it's possible to fake it. You can skim right over the surface without doing the legwork. You become an actor, an entertainer. If you get too heavily into the dog show business and the lecture business, you can call yourself a journalist, but in fact you're not. You don't feel good about yourself. I've done it. I know you can fake it.

"There is a corrupting influence," he continues. "Just the physical demands on your body, to go from here to L.A. or Vegas or Florida on a Tuesday and give a speech Wednesday and then do a show on Friday. You stay at a ritzy hotel. You shut people out. You just talk to these well-groomed, well-heeled business folks. You're traveling in a bubble. It tends to encourage a pro-establishment viewpoint. You're talking to the establishment, you're with them a lot."

Gergen should know. Few pundits can compete with him in the buckraking department.

In 1992, while he was a commentator for "MacNeil/Lehrer" and a columnist for U.S. News & World Report, Gergen was paid $466,625 for making 121 speeches. He pulled in an additional $239,460 for 50 speeches in the first few months of 1993, before joining the Clinton White House. Total take: nearly three-quarters of a million dollars.

The list of Gergen's benefactors reads like a who's who of corporate America: the American Stock Exchange ($12,000), American Trucking Association ($10,000), Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association ($7,000), Grocery Manufacturers of America ($6,500), Snack Food Association ($6,500), Edison Electric Institute ($6,500), American Bankers Association ($6,000), Chase Manhattan Bank ($6,000) and Salomon Brothers ($6,000), to name just a few. "It was an important part of my income," Gergen says.

IBM paid Gergen more than $55,000 over two years for 10 separate appearances in places ranging from New York to Albuquerque to Palm Springs. "The attraction in having David Gergen speak is his background in Washington and his expertise in public policy," says IBM spokesman Tom Beermann.

Needless to say, most of these groups had important interests in the political issues that Gergen was regularly discussing on "MacNeil/Lehrer," on other shows such as "Face the Nation" and on Mutual radio and Washington's WMAL radio. And yet he must ask the public to believe that taking $55,000 from IBM had absolutely no effect on his public views -- an assertion that would be laughable if made by a politician.

Gergen, of course, is a politician, or, to be precise, a political operative; before and between his stints as an editor and columnist, he has worked in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton administrations. This kind of dual identity raises another set of ethical questions for Washington journalism, but it has only added to Gergen's aura of marketability.

After his most recent tour at the White House, where for 18 months he appeared on various talk shows as a Clinton spokesman, he rejoined "MacNeil/Lehrer" and U.S. News and hit the lecture circuit once again. Last fall, the Chicago Tribune reported, Gergen made $20,000 at an American Bankers Association convention in San Francisco, a job that included moderating a panel on improving the industry's image. You Only Exist if You're on Television'

It used to be that major media outlets didn't want their reporters sounding off on television. The New York Times, for example, actively discouraged its reporters from appearing regularly on the tube. "It came from an institutional snobbism," says Steven Roberts, a former reporter for the paper who is now with U.S. News. "The Times thought they were better than TV."

Few believe that anymore. The Times has hired a public relations firm to place its writers on television and has launched its own nightly cable show. The Chicago Tribune has hired a TV coach to work with its reporters and has started its own cable network. Time and Newsweek pay their writers cash bonuses of $50 to $100 for each television or radio interview. Newsweek even boasts in a promotional ad -- featuring Eleanor Clift, Howard Fineman, Evan Thomas, Jonathan Alter and Joe Klein on various shows -- that "TV news organizations turn to Newsweek for expertise." When Tina Brown moved from Vanity Fair to the New Yorker, she brought along her publicist, Maurie Perl, to help generate the buzz that Brown considers crucial to the magazine's success. The way to create buzz, she believes, is to get New Yorker writers on "Good Morning America" or "Larry King Live" or "Charlie Rose."

This kind of promotional strategy is now the accepted wisdom. "This is not just about stuffed-shirt pundits and their own self-aggrandizement," a Time official says. "This is becoming a large way in which news organizations market themselves. It's purely about image-building. Before we had a PR department, Margaret Carlson sat in a dusty office and did no TV."

There's a risk involved: Once they get a taste of television fame, some reporters abandon print journalism altogether. Julie Johnson, after occasionally filling in on "Brinkley," jumped from Time to ABC. Margaret Warner, who was a regular on "Capital Gang," switched from Newsweek to "MacNeil/Lehrer." Michel McQueen, a frequent panelist on "Washington Week," moved from the Wall Street Journal to ABC. Gwen Ifill, another "Washington Week" regular, quit the New York Times for NBC. Eleanor Clift left the White House beat at Newsweek, switching to part-time status, and pursued "The McLaughlin Group" and other television venues. "You make stars out of these people and they leave you," the Time official sniffs.

Sue Ducat, producer of "Washington Week," says the Chicago Tribune's publicist has called regularly to flack the paper's reporters. "Being on Washington Week' enhances their credibility within their own bureaus," Ducat says. "Bureau chiefs call me all the time to hawk people, including themselves. If they're on TV, boom! Suddenly their sources will call them back faster. And it's money. The lecture agents monitor shows like ours. Our show is often a recruiting ground for shows like Meet the Press.' "

Journalistic calculations are affected by the need to keep the publicity machine humming. Clarence Page, a Chicago Tribune columnist, says he left Chicago for Washington several years ago to enhance his visibility. "One of the reasons I moved, quite frankly, was to get more exposure on the talk shows," he says. "It's pundit heaven here. It helps me to sell my column. In modern society you only exist if you're on television." As for speeches, for which Page charges $5,000 to $6,000, he says: "Before I started getting a lot of McLaughlin' exposure, my invitations were primarily from universities and nonprofit organizations. Now I've been getting more corporate invitations -- Grumman Aircraft, Met Life, Allstate. I've gotten a new audience."

At CNN, executive vice president Ed Turner must approve his employees' speaking engagements. "I don't like to say no," Turner says. "I'm proud when our guys can pick up a few extra bucks, and it's good exposure for CNN."

But as CNN has discovered, exposure can lead to embarrassment if a journalist strays too far off the reservation. Lou Dobbs, a top CNN executive and the host of "Moneyline" and "Moneyweek," accepted more than $15,000 for making promotional videos for Paine Webber, Shearson Lehman Brothers and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. In the Paine Webber video, he praised the brokerage for its "twin traditions of integrity and client service." Dobbs failed to grasp what was wrong with the arrangement. After the Wall Street Journal disclosed the deals in 1992, he told me: "It is nonsensical to talk about this as a conflict of interest any more than giving a speech to a corporation, and journalists all over the country do that." (Dobbs had a point: The same Journal article had to disclose that the paper's page-one editor at the time, James Stewart, had been paid $6,000 for a speech to Dean Witter Reynolds.)

CNN quickly reprimanded Dobbs, who returned the money and apologized for his "arrogance." Health Cash in America

During the first two years of the Clinton administration, no issue was higher on the national agenda than health care reform. And the biggest health care organizations, which had a huge stake in the outcome, were funneling large amounts of cash to some of the very journalists who were covering and commenting on the debate.

One recipient was Fred Barnes, who gives six to eight speeches a month, most of them for a $5,000 fee. Barnes, now executive editor of the new conservative magazine, the Weekly Standard, is a regular on "The McLaughlin Group" and "CBS This Morning," fills in on "Crossfire" and hosts a syndicated radio show.

Here's how a talk show spiel can pay dividends. In the spring of 1993, when Washington was abuzz about the need for health reform, Barnes declared on "McLaughlin" that the notion of a health care crisis was overblown. After seeing the "McLaughlin" segment, Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, executive editor of the American Spectator, called to ask Barnes to write a piece on the subject for the conservative magazine. As the idea gained currency in Republican circles, Barnes expanded his indictment, saying in a piece for Forbes MediaCritic that the calls for sweeping health reform were based on "media-generated myths." Republican activists like William Kristol and GOP members of Congress began to embrace the argument that there was no crisis. And in the fall of 1994, the American Managed Care and Review Association, which represented health maintenance organizations, flew Barnes to Atlanta to deliver a keynote speech to its members.

"Maybe I did write something they liked," Barnes says. "Maybe they want me to come because I'm on television." Barnes sees no problem with undue influence because, he says, "I work for an opinion magazine."

Officials at the managed care association say they didn't agree with everything Barnes said on health care but liked his outspoken commentary on "McLaughlin." "We were also trying to get his perspective on working with the media and how to get the managed care message out," says Steven Gardner, then the group's director of education. "That was part of our discussion. Knowing of his savvy, we wanted to get some pointers."

During the height of the health care battle, columnist George Will went to Washington's Grand Hyatt Hotel to speak to the Health Insurance Association of America, maker of the famed "Harry and Louise" ads attacking the Clinton health plan. Will, too, has argued on the air that complaints about a health care crisis are vastly exaggerated.

Will says his receipt of industry cash "doesn't make a particle of difference in what I'm saying" and that his speeches are not "tailored" to any group. "Virtually everything I say in my talks has appeared in what I've written," he says.

During the same period, Michael Kinsley and Margaret Carlson flew to San Francisco to address a gathering of the American Medical Association. Kinsley says he donated the fee to charity -- not because he thought there was a problem, but because I might "pester" him about it in The Post. Kinsley also split $25,000 with Robert Novak and syndicated columnist/"Capital Gang" regular Mona Charen for speaking to the Independent Insurance Agents of America at Disney World's Dolphin Hotel. And, in a "Crossfire" roadshow, Kinsley, co-host John Sununu and Juan Williams, a reporter on leave from The Post, appeared before the Group Health Association of America, arguing about health care.

"It's potentially corrupting, but so is everything," Kinsley says.

How does he deal with this? He abides by "a series of perverse rules," such as refusing to speak to college audiences. "If the corporations want to shell out this kind of money, that's the stockholders' problem," he says. "But I resent the money coming from student fees." (END PART 1 OF 2)