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If you have spent any time with Bill or Hillary Clinton in person, as this writer has, you’ll get this point: Whether you like or hate their politics, you cannot deny their brilliance. The former president is a phenomenal, freewheeling thinker, able to integrate knowledge from multiple sources with insight that puts him a level above the crowd. His spouse, the former senator and Secretary of State and probable presidential candidate, possesses a steely, directed brilliance that is in sharp contrast with her more extemporaneous husband. Even on their individual merits, were they not the most powerful political couple in the United States, you would want to hear them talk—and maybe even pay them to do so.
But speaking fees for Bill and Hillary Clinton—and now their daughter Chelsea as well—are a cause for nonprofit and philanthropic concern, particularly with nonprofit entities that pay huge sums, six- and seven-figure fees to bring the Clintons to the dais. The news reports about the speaking fees and related political blowback regarding the Clintons have been increasing geometrically:
- Between January 2001, when he left office, and January 2013, when Hillary Clinton left her position as Secretary of State, the former president has received $104.9 million in fees for delivering 542 speeches. The largest source of his speaking gigs? Wall Street banks and other financial services firms, which recruited the former president for 102 speeches and paid him $19.6 million.
- In some cases, the former president’s speaking fees have been astronomical. Last year, the Jewish National Fund, the Israeli organization that owns or controls a significant part of that nation’s actual real estate, offered to pay President Clinton $500,000 in return for the president’s speaking at Israeli President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday celebration. After an outcry in Israel and in the U.S., the JNF withdrew its half-million-dollar offer. That sum, though, is a quarter-million lower than the highest fee reportedly paid to President Clinton: $750,000 for an address to the telecom company Ericsson in Hong Kong.
- The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker reports that Hillary Clinton’s average speaking fee tops $200,000, with the former Secretary of State accepting lower fees or waiving them on occasion for black-tie society gigs.
- For a speech earlier this year to students and faculty at the University of California at Los Angeles, Hillary Clinton was paid $300,000, the money coming from a private trust established by Scope Industries CEO Meyer Luskin to fund a lecture series at the school. Two years ago, the UCLA paid Bill Clinton $250,000 for a speech.
- The Post further reported that Hillary Clinton has scored at least $1 million this year in speaking fees for speeches at the University at Buffalo, Colgate University, and Hamilton College in New York, as well as Simmons College in Boston and the University of Miami in Florida—each declining to reveal how much they paid the former Secretary of State– plus $251,250 from a donor fund for a speech the University of Connecticut and the $300,000 for the UCLA gig.
- At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the UNLV is