In Hillary Clinton's attempt to seem "one of the people", she made the public relations debacle of portraying herself as "dead broke" at the time she and Bill Clinton left the White House. Of course, the reason this attempt at populist pandering backfired (certainly not helped by her daughter's just as mistimed quote that she "Was Curious If She Could Care About Money And Couldn't", an expected outcome considering such boondoggles as a $600,000 NBC job for doing, well, something, and being married to a hedge fund manager) is because as is well-known, even the least educated American, the bulk of wealth American president families accrue is not while in office but after, when they hit the speaking/book publishing circuit.
This is just what WaPo found when it conducted a review of the Clintons’ federal financial disclosure: it found that Bill was paid $104.9 million for delivering 542 speeches around the world between January 2001 and January 2013, when Hillary left her job as secretary of state.
Over seven frenetic days, Bill Clinton addressed corporate executives in Switzerland and Denmark, an investors’ group in Sweden and a cluster of business and political leaders in Austria. The former president wrapped up his European trip in the triumphant Spanish Hall at Prague Castle, where he shared his thoughts on energy to a Czech business summit.
His pay: $1.4 million.
That lucrative week in May 2012 offers a glimpse into the way Clinton has leveraged his global popularity into a personal fortune. Starting just two weeks after exiting the Oval Office, Clinton has delivered hundreds of paid speeches, lifting a family that was “dead broke,” as wife Hillary Rodham Clinton phrased it earlier this month, to a point of such extraordinary wealth that it is now seen as a potential political liability if she runs for president in 2016.
Visually (for the full interactive chart annotating each speech, click here).
Although slightly more than half of his appearances were in the United States, the majority of his speaking income, $56.3 million, came from foreign speeches, many of them in China, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom, the Post review found.
The financial industry has been Clinton’s most frequent sponsor. The Post review showed that Wall Street banks and other financial services firms have hired Clinton for at least 102 appearances and paid him a total of $19.6 million.
Bill Clinton: Wall Street's motivational speaker?
“He’s a stud,” said Anthony Scaramucci, founder of SkyBridge Capital, which paid Clinton $175,000 to address its annual investment conference in 2010. Clinton’s speech at the Las Vegas confab was so riveting, Scaramucci said, “there was nobody at the Bellagio cabana sunning himself when President Clinton was in the ballroom speaking.”
One of Clinton's biggest fans: Goldman Sachs has hired Bill Clinton for eight speeches over the years totaling $1.35 million, many of them client meetings in such locales as Paris, Phoenix, and the South Carolina beach resort of Kiawah Island.
Goldman also has paid Hillary Clinton: She addressed tech entrepreneurs in Arizona last fall and women in finance in New York this year.
“President Clinton’s always interesting, but there’s a lot more demand right now for her because she just came out of government and people want to hear about that, whether it’s Iran or Russia or the big challenges she’s faced, and about the dysfunction in Washington,” said a Goldman executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal thinking.
Aside from money, what does Clinton get out of it?
“It makes me feel like I’m president again,” Clinton said in 2012 as he looked out at a large convention crowd at the National Retail Federation, which paid him $200,000. Clinton shared advice with the retailers passed down from his mother: “When I wanted to be a musician, I was not very good for years, and she just kept beating up on me and she said, ‘You just can’t quit.’ ”
In his addresses, Bill Clinton speaks about policy issues of the moment, domestic and foreign, and tailors his remarks to the business interests of his sponsors. He often speaks without notes and keeps his audiences in rapt attention, playfully answering questions and dispensing pearls of wisdom from his White House years or childhood in Arkansas.
The people willing to pay Clinton to speak surpasses even those happy to pay Bernanke some $200,000 per speech.
Although many former presidents hit the speaking circuit in retirement, Bill Clinton’s staying power has been unusual. His busiest year on record was 2012, when he gave 72 paid speeches and earned $16.3 million, according to The Post’s review. “I’m shocked that people still want me to come give talks,” Clinton said this week, appearing to feign modesty in an interview with NBC’s David Gregory.
Curiously the older Clinton has gotten, the more he has been paid for every speech:
Clinton is hardly alone in milking the speaking tour:
Other former presidents also have stirred controversy with their paid speeches. Shortly after leaving office in 1989, Ronald Reagan received $2 million for addressing business executives in Tokyo at a time when the United States had an acrimonious trade dispute with Japan. George H.W. Bush made millions of dollars speaking to corporate groups around the world, as has George W. Bush, who in 2011 addressed, among others, financial firms caught up in scandal.
Which is great: after all this is what capitalism is all about - we would be the last to begrudge the Clintons their wealth if it was obtained legally and through hard speaking work (we certainly fail to see what insight one gleans from a Clinton speech for $200,000 but that's a different story). However, with a bank account that is now well over the $100 million mark, a fact known by everyone, trying desperately to pass off as being "not truly well off" and one of the 99.9% simply won't fly. The only question now is whether it is too late for Hillary to pivot back to the real world, where she and the person on the street, have absolutely nothing in common. Sadly for her, that may well mark the end of her presidential chances. That's ok though: with several million to burn, we are confident she will find other well-paid distractions in which to bury her sorrows.