George W. Bush Charges Wounded Veterans Nonprofit $100K for Speech

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July 8, 2015; The Hill

Was former president George W. Bush “helping a hero” when he charged a group that raises funds to provide homes specially adapted for seriously injured veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq $100,000 as a speaking fee three years ago?

NPQ’s Rick Cohen has been covering the speakers’ fees paid by some nonprofits to high profile speakers, but this particular situation seems more egregious than most. ABC News reports that in 2012, Helping a Hero, which is based in Texas, not only paid Bush the $100,000 but also spent $20,000 transporting him to Houston on a private jet. But wait! That’s not all. The year before, Laura Bush was paid a $50,000 fee. (On top of that most basic of problems, it appears that Helping a Hero has come up for criticism from the veterans it claims to help.)

The group claims that the cash outlay of $170,000 paid off since it raised record funds in 2011 and 2012 and, after all, Bush had reduced his usual fee from $250,000 down to $100,000.

Eddie Wright, a former marine and former member of Helping a Hero’s board was not as pleased with the picture. “For him to be paid to raise money for veterans that were wounded in combat under his orders, I don’t think that’s right,” Wright said. “You sent me to war…I was doing what you told me to do, gladly for you and our country and I have no regrets…But it is kind of a slap in the face.”

Wright lost both of his hands in Iraq in 2004.

Politico reports that “toward the end of his presidency, George W. Bush told Robert Draper, reporting for a book called Dead Certain, that he intended after vacating the Oval Office to ‘replenish the ol’ coffers.’ He said he could make ‘ridiculous’ money on the lecture circuit.” Ridiculous is one word for it.—Ruth McCambridge