The Clintons’ Paid-Speech Bonanza

Exclusive: With primary voting set to start next month, one of Hillary Clinton’s remaining hurdles is convincing Democratic voters that she is not beholden to Wall Street and other wealthy interests that have fattened her family’s bank account with tens of millions of dollars for paid speeches, writes Chelsea Gilmour.

By Chelsea Gilmour

Hillary Clinton is said to be buoyant over her prospects to become the next U.S. President, as Republicans feud over Donald Trump’s disruptive campaign and Sen. Bernie Sanders fails to articulate a clear foreign policy, but perhaps the biggest obstacle still confronting the ex-Secretary of State is her own record as a beneficiary of rich and powerful corporate interests.

“The truth is, you can’t change a corrupt system by taking its money,” says a Sanders’s television commercial.  And Clinton has left herself open to that charge by profiting off her government experience, racking up $11.8 million in 51 speaking fees in the 14-month period from January 2014 to March 2015 before she became an official candidate for President, according to disclosure records.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For speeches usually lasting between 30 minutes and one hour, Clinton was paid from $100,000 to $335,000, an average around $230,000. Many of her paid speeches were delivered to Wall Street, Big Pharma, Tech and other industries with interests in influencing government policies.

Payments crossing the $300,000 mark came from Qualcomm Inc. ($335,000), the Biotechnology Industry Organization ($335,000), the National Automobile Dealers Association ($325,500), Cisco ($325,000), eBay ($315,000) and Nexenta Systems, Inc. ($300,000). Those amounts are each roughly equivalent to six times the typical American middle-class earnings in an entire year.

It’s true that the paid speaking circuit is a common stomping ground for former public officials. For instance, after leaving the Florida governorship and before running for President, Jeb Bush was compensated handsomely for his public speeches. During the same 14-month period between January 2014 and March 2015, Jeb made $1.8 million delivering 43 paid speeches in the U.S. and abroad (London, Prague, Toronto, and Punta del Este, Uruguay). His average compensation per speech was $42,500, less than 20 percent of Clinton’s average haul.

And former President Bill Clinton has amassed a fortune speaking to groups all over the world, as listed in Hillary Clinton’s disclosure forms for 2014-2015. According to those financial disclosures, Bill Clinton delivered 53 paid speeches from January 2014 to March 2015, totaling $13.3 million. His highest single payouts from speeches during that period came on March 6 and 7, 2014, when he received $500,000 each for speeches to Bank of America in London and Kessler Topaz Meltzer and Check LLP in Amsterdam.

As Larry Noble, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told CBS, “It’s not unusual for former elected officials to go out and give speeches and make a lot of money. What the problem now is that they’re coming back into government after going out and having been paid large sums by these various special interests.”

Two-for-One

In the Clintons’ case, there is also a potential for the speech-buyers to get what America’s most famous power couple in 1993 called “two for the price of one.” Since Clinton-42 would surely be a prominent member of a potential Clinton-45 administration, just as Hillary Clinton was a policy adviser during Bill Clinton’s presidency, lavishing money on former President Bill Clinton might be an indirect route to influence President Hillary Clinton.

The backdrop of this issue is the unprecedented nature of the Clintons’ double-teaming the international business world to leverage millions of dollars from their past experience and potential future power. This conflict of interest has even raised eyebrows in the mainstream news media. On Nov. 22, 2015, both The Washington Post and The New York Times published front-page articles examining Bill and Hillary Clinton’s unmatched accumulation of wealth from their careers as public servants.

The Post’s investigation found that since Bill Clinton’s 1974 congressional bid, the “grand total raised for all [Bill and Hillary’s] political campaigns and their family’s charitable foundation reaches at least $3 billion. They made historic inroads on Wall Street, pulling in at least $69 million in political contributions from the employees and PACs of banks, insurance companies, and securities and investment firms. Wealthy hedge fund managers S. Donald Sussman and David E. Shaw are among their top campaign supporters, having given more than $1 million each.”

This concern surfaced during the Nov. 14 Democratic presidential debate when Hillary Clinton was pressed about her acceptance of Wall Street largesse and she sought to justify her financial support from Wall Street as somehow related to her work as a New York senator following the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

“I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked,” Clinton said. “Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

The World Trade Center's Twin Towers burning on 9/11. (Photo credit: National Park Service)

The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers burning on 9/11. (Photo credit: National Park Service)

Clinton’s reference to 9/11 as justification for her accepting large speaking fees and campaign donations from Wall Street quickly raised the hackles of some debate watchers on social media. Later in the debate, Clinton was confronted with one tweet that noted that “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now.”

Clinton responded, “Well, I’m sorry that whoever tweeted that had that impression because I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire first term to rebuild. So, yes, I did know people. I’ve had a lot of folks give me donations from all kinds of backgrounds say, I don’t agree with you on everything, but I like what you do. I like how you stand up. I’m going to support you, and I think that is absolutely appropriate.”

Image Problem

After the debate, The New York Times examined this image problem created by Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street donations, reporting: “John Wittneben simmered as he listened to Hillary Rodham Clinton defend her ties to Wall Street during last weekend’s Democratic debate. He lost 40 percent of his savings in individual retirement accounts during the Great Recession, while Mrs. Clinton has received millions of dollars from the kinds of executives he believes should be in jail.

“‘People knew what they were doing back then, because of greed, and it caused me harm,’ said Mr. Wittneben, the Democratic chairman in Emmet County, Iowa. ‘We were raised a certain way here. Fairness is a big deal.’ The next day he endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders in the presidential race.

“Mrs. Clinton’s windfalls from Wall Street banks and other financial services firms, $3 million in paid speeches and $17 million in campaign contributions over the years, have become a major vulnerability in states with early nomination contests. It is an image problem that she cannot seem to shake.”

Meanwhile, The Washington Post article provided an overview of the source of Clinton campaign contributions and how the Clintons have systematically cultivated their donor base of the super-rich on Wall Street since Bill Clinton first ran for president in 1992.

Both publications recounted the episode in which Goldman Sachs executive Robert E. Rubin raised funds and opened doors to other Wall Street execs for Bill Clinton’s presidential bid and was rewarded with an appointment as Treasury Secretary.

According to the Post article, “Like-minded Wall Streeters such as investment banker Roger Altman joined [Rubin] in the new administration, and early on they helped craft an economic policy, known as Rubinomics, that was applauded by Wall Street but viewed critically by many on the left. When then-first lady Hillary Clinton decided to run for the Senate in New York in 2000, she turned to Rubin and Altman to introduce her to key players on Wall Street.”

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton debating with President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton debating with President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Many of Clinton-42’s economic policies followed the Wall Street interest in “neo-liberalism,” a combination of government deregulation of the financial industry and promotion of “free trade” agreements that led U.S. companies to shift manufacturing jobs overseas.

While those tactics were credited with producing a go-go economy in the 1990s, many of the unpleasant consequences came home to roost a decade later in the burst of the Internet bubble in 2000 and then the Wall Street crash in 2008 that cost millions of Americans their jobs, their savings and their homes.

As Hillary Clinton now cites the relative affluence of the 1990s and dispatches Bill Clinton to be a key campaign surrogate, the mixed history of that era is becoming another key issue in the 2016 campaign with the underlying question: How would Hillary Clinton deal with Wall Street and the Big Banks if elected? Publicly, she has taken a relatively tough line on Wall Street.

Reining in Wall Street

As the Post explained, “In her current campaign, Clinton has pledged to rein in Wall Street. She has proposed higher taxes on high-frequency traders and an end to special tax breaks for hedge fund managers, and recently called for more aggressive enforcement of criminal statutes that govern the finance industry.

“But her rhetoric has not alarmed her backers in the financial sector. So far, donors in the banking and insurance industries have given $6.4 million to her campaign and allied super PACs, behind only those in communications and technology, the Post found.”

But Wall Street is not the only business sector that has courted Hillary Clinton with lucrative payments for her speeches and welcomed her comments. Our analysis of available recordings and transcripts of Clinton’s speeches showed that her paid speeches ranged across a variety of topics, mostly favorable or flattering to the corporate interests being addressed.

For instance, Clinton noted the importance of women in the real estate field during a speech to the Commercial Real Estate Women Network in October 2014. In March 2015, Clinton lauded the work that women have done in technology during a 20-minute speech to eBay, where Meg Whitman was chief executive during its meteoric rise from 1998 to 2008.

As The Washington Post noted, shortly after that speech, Clinton was back before some of the same people seeking donations for her campaign.

“Less than two months later, Clinton was feted at the San Francisco Bay-area home of eBay chief executive John Donahoe and his wife, Eileen, for one of the first fundraisers supporting Clinton’s newly announced presidential campaign,” the Post reported last May.

All told, Clinton gave nine speeches to the tech sector which paid her at least $2.4 million. (The Washington Post calculates her payments from the tech sector as $3.2 million, the discrepancy apparently reflecting different definitions of what constitutes a “tech company.”)

During her speaking engagement with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in June 2014, Clinton spoke of the need for the U.S. government to encourage “risky” but profitable investments in the pharmaceutical industry and to avoid companies outsourcing biotechnology and pharmaceutical businesses.

Discussing the risky business of producing new pharmaceuticals, she called for affordable “insurance against risk,” and said if Washington was not helpful in this effort then perhaps the states that host these companies could come together and make legislation.

“We’ve got to rationalize our tax system because I don’t want to see biotech companies or pharma companies moving out of our country simply because of some kind of perceived tax disadvantage and potential tax advantage somewhere else,” she said to a hearty round of applause.

Before the pharmaceutical and health industries, she showed off her expertise gleaned from her experience managing Bill Clinton’s ill-fated health reform bill in 1993-94. She gave 10 paid speeches to healthcare organizations, totaling $2.3 million in fees, including $335,000 from the Biotechnology Industry Organization and a quarter-million dollars or more each from Drug, Chemical and Associated Technologies; Cardiovascular Research Foundation; and Advanced Medical Technology Association.

Making Multi-Millions

That nearly 38 percent of Hillary Clinton’s current personal wealth of approximately $31.3 million was accumulated during the brief period between her departure from the State Department and her run for the presidency underscores the extent to which she is a beneficiary of big-business’ financial largesse.

The close proximity between Hillary Clinton’s last paid speaking engagement on March 19, 2015 to the New York section of the American Camping Association for $260,000 and her announcement as a candidate for president on April 12, 2015, adds further fuel to a suspicion of impropriety.

Since Clinton knew that she would be announcing her candidacy, squeezing in paid speeches almost to the last minute gives the appearance that she was profiting off her possible rise to arguably the most powerful political position on earth.

Indeed, Clinton’s inner circle had been dropping hints about her 2016 presidential run since she lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008 and, more intensely, after she left the State Department in early 2013.

And though she was not alone in delivering paid speeches until shortly before announcing for instance, Jeb Bush also delivered paid speeches into March 2015 the staggering sums in Clinton’s case have sharpened criticism of her behavior.

Clinton’s campaign did not respond to questions regarding whether the lucrative compensation from speeches raised conflict-of-interest questions. Of the companies paying Clinton some of her highest rates (Qualcomm, Nexenta, eBay, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and the National Automobile Dealers Association or NADA), Nexenta and NADA were the only companies to respond to inquiries, although indirectly.

Nexenta was prompt in replying, but said only, “We were very pleased with her participation and presentation at the Nexenta OpenSDx Summit 2014.”

A spokesperson from NADA responded to pointed inquiries with a general answer: “The National Automobile Dealers Association is a non-profit and non-partisan business trade group, and does not endorse presidential candidates or their views. Our role is to provide our dealer members with exposure to all facets of business and government that can affect their dealerships. NADA has a long history of inviting speakers from across the political spectrum. Many previous convention speakers, for example, presented views counter to Sen. Clinton. And her views will be counter-balanced by future speakers as well.”

Indeed, Republican strategist Karl Rove and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who has endorsed Clinton, are scheduled to speak at the 2016 NADA convention in Las Vegas. Jeb Bush was a keynote speaker for the January 2015 NADA convention in San Francisco, although he was a relative bargain, earning $51,000, compared to Hillary Clinton’s $325,500 in 2014. (This disparity is likely explained by their relative “celebrity” and their “going rates” rather than any political favoritism by NADA.)

Yet, regardless of whether Hillary Clinton has violated the spirit of government ethics laws by accepting these speaking fees, she faces a challenge trying to convince voters that she will be a champion of middle- and working-class Americans rather than a defender of Wall Street and other corporate interests.

Editor’s note on tabulations: Cited amounts represent paid speeches that went to personal income and do not include speeches when compensation was given to a charity, nor do the tallies include money from book royalties.

Chelsea Gilmour is an assistant editor at Consortiumnews.com. She has previously published “The Mystery of the Civil War’s Camp Casey” and “Jeb Bush’s Tangled Past.

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16 comments for “The Clintons’ Paid-Speech Bonanza

  1. J'hon Doe II
    January 6, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Meanwhile all of us must be reminded each day that people
    are dying and the societies that ought to provide for their
    people’s welfare are crumbling and , as elsewhere, much is due
    to American policies.
    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

    MEANWHILE

    all of us must be reminded each day that people
    are dying and the societies that ought to provide for their
    people’s welfare are crumbling and ,
    as elsewhere, much is due to American policies
    ============================================

    meanwhile, back at the ranch/statehouse,
    tax credits/loopholes are built against labor in favor of the Ownership Society —- which has ALWAYS been / now named, by Supreme Court rulers > Electoral Contributions aka political money funds in the politics of the national orgasm . (climax into a pre-arranged recreational body by authority of leaders of the Chambers of COMMERCE & “Free Trade” commodities in stolen sexual bodies.) – by un-fullfilling ejaculating dominating european men leaving women wanting.

  2. Jay
    January 5, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    And of course Consortium News just has to bash Sanders for no particular reason, in an article about legal bribing of Hillary Clinton.

    Got problem with Sanders on foreign policy, articulate, but not in a piece on this subject.

  3. Skip Edwards
    January 5, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    “As Larry Noble, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told CBS, “It’s not unusual for former elected officials to go out and give speeches and make a lot of money. What the problem now is that they’re coming back into government after going out and having been paid large sums by these various special interests.” Quoted from above article.

    That is only part of the problem! The other part of the problem is newly elected and long term elected officials know that if they ‘play the Washington political game’ by voting the rich corporate way, keep quiet when told and don’t make too many waves in the Capitol cess pool they will be richly rewarded in the future. They don’t even have to become part of the revolving door as about half do. This should be called bribery after the fact!!

  4. Peter Loeb
    January 5, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    APPOLOGIES TO CHELSEA GILMOUR AND
    CONSORTIUM.NEWS

    My comment “Military or Civilian Authority”
    was obviously addressed to Gareth Porter and it
    has been copied under his recent article.

    I will not hold you or Consortium liable because
    I was unable to find the right button!!!

    Peter

  5. Bill Bodden
    January 5, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    But what does it say about so many potential voters that polls show more than half will vote for her to become president? Meryl Streep (and, presumably, the audience of women she addressed) supports Clinton because three Latin American women claim that Clinton saved their lives. What about the millions of women in the Balkans, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Honduras whose lives have been destroyed because of policies Clinton supported? Trump is a loose cannon who could probably be a disaster, but Clinton makes a case Trump is the lesser evil.

  6. Peter Loeb
    January 5, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    MILITARY OR CIVILIAN AUTHORITY?

    In Gareth Porter’s article above one is left with a view
    of a military operating almost (almost) independently
    with regards to issues of war and piece.

    In his work THE ROOTS OF AMERICAN FOREIGN
    POLICY… (Beacon Press, 1969), the
    late historian Gabriel Kolko argues precisely the
    opposite, especially in Chapter 2, “The American
    Military and Civil Authority” (pp. 27-47).

    Kolko bolsters his argument based on successive
    reorganizations of what is now called “The Defense
    Department”, its relationship to the National Security
    Council (NSC) as well as to overriding civilian power
    residing in the Chief Executive.

    While much has changed since post WWII , it is
    difficult to oppose Kolko’s analysis as a basis for analysis.

    Whatever his personal or political modes of
    operation it still seems that the President has
    the last word.

    If Gareth Porter (Seymour Hersch and others) contest
    Kolko’s argument, their case should be made
    clearly and concisely with regard to power relationships.

    None of this contradicts the essential argument against
    the “Assad Must Go!” policies nor the issues
    regarding the basic “facts” (such as who is supporting
    whom) etc.

    With a new President of any party, similar power relationships
    will obtain.

    Porter’s insight into the development and operation of this
    and similar policies remain relevant and are much appreciated.

    Meanwhile all of us must be reminded each day that people
    are dying and the societies that ought to provide for their
    people’s welfare are crumbling and , as elsewhere, much is due
    to American policies.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

    • Dust
      January 7, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      I have a hunch that what you’re talking about is the Shadow Govt. (Trans national corporations, Covert Ops of CIA, the Pentagon, especially those “happy warriors” at WHINSEC, formerly Army School of the Americas, the U.S. murder inc.)Jim Garrison made comment about that when he was investigating the JFK coup of November 22, 1963. He said he “ran into a 4th branch of govt. totally unanswerable to any of the other 3.”

      Please watch what is happening in Guatamela. 18 military murderers arrested, all or most tied to U.S.

      Dust

  7. Pablo Diablo
    January 5, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    The media has set up Donald Trump to be her opponent and ignored Bernie Sanders in order to insure Hillary is their, er, I mean, “our” next President.

    • Ernest Spoon
      January 5, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      That´s the way it looks to me too, Pablo Diablo. It´s a WWE match-up between ¨heel¨ Trump and ¨face¨ Clinton. And just as phony…well actually professional wresting is more ethical.

  8. Tom Welsh
    January 5, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    “What the problem now is that they’re coming back into government after going out and having been paid large sums by these various special interests.”

    That is a red herring – completely irrelevant. It’s just as pernicious and corrupt for an elected official (or one standing for election) to perform services for special interests that are paid for years later, as it is for them to accept payment in advance or at the time.

    It’s the same syndrome that corrupts public affairs everywhere in the squeaky-clean “Western” world. In the same way, corporations can easily conspire to fix prices and divide up markets – while it may be technically possible to prove what they are doing, no one in government or law enforcement is interested in doing so. Guess why? Money, like water, runs downhill.

    If you or I or Joe Soap were to give a boring 1-hour speech about politics, or how we invaded some country and killed millions of innocent civilians, or how we got off an aircraft “under sniper fire” and had to run for our lives (when news videos show none of that happened), and we got paid $335,000 for it – we’d be under investigation (and probably in prison) so fast it would make your head swim.

    But curiously enough politicians are never suspected of fraud. Not by anyone in law enforcement, at least. Only be everyone else.

    • Skip Edwards
      January 5, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks so much, TW, for your very truthful comment. I made a similar one below prior to reading yours just now. We must be on to something! lol

      • Tom Welsh
        January 6, 2016 at 3:54 pm

        Thank you, Skip! I agree with your comment – thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    • Bill Bodden
      January 5, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      It’s just as pernicious and corrupt for an elected official (or one standing for election) to perform services for special interests that are paid for years later,…

      As in Reagan’s $2 million tour of Japan? “And for My Second Act, I’ll Make Some Money” By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE – http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/09/weekinreview/09seelye.html

    • The Aggressions of Obama
      January 17, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      “That is a red herring – completely irrelevant. It’s just as pernicious and corrupt for an elected official (or one standing for election) to perform services for special interests that are paid for years later, as it is for them to accept payment in advance or at the time.”

      Thank you, Tom Welsh. Well said. That was exactly what I was thinking, but you expressed it so well and encapsulated it well with the words “red herring.” There are plenty of those red herrings used by propagandists that infiltrate the entire system nowadays. Your comment is excellent, T.W., so above the false reality that is being propagated by the discredited Corporate Media and trolls in the blogoshere etc.

      As you suggest, it is not just that politicians get the speakers fees and then come back into government that is a problem. That is small potatoes. The bigger occurrence it seems is that politicians get payback–perfectly legal bribes–AFTER they leave office, as you describe so well–in the form of speaker fees etc. after they leave office. eg. Clinton, eg. Blair who have all become millionaires or billionaires. The corporations WILL make these payments even though the politician has left office because there is a trust the corporations want to maintain with the politicians–if the corporations don’t make the payments after the politicians leave office, future politicians will see they may not get the bribe payments after they leave office and will not do their bidding.

      Eg. Obama will make a lot of money making speeches etc. as payback for implementing TPP (Trans Pacific Pact). Not to mention money wired to accounts–who knows. (There is no other explanation for Obama’s pushing of TPP. Either he is going to get payback for implementing TPP, or he truly believes the TPP is good for the 99 percent…which is more likely? What an abominable, cynical, lying, self-seeking villain Obama is. He is The Great Deceiver.)

  9. incontinent reader
    January 5, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    So Hillary has the chutzpah to take credit for rebuilding New York City after 9/11? Give me a break. The woman is a money machine that disburses patronage- and not the type that helps ordinary people (including battered women- though I recall after one of Bill’s predatory episodes in Arkansas, battered women became a Hillary cause célèbre to distract from the crime.). Anyway, on that NY list there were few who received 9/11 subsidies for building in Times Square (for example the Durst group, and, I believe, Bank of America). As for her contributions from S. Donald Sussman and Haim Saban? Well, you get the idea. And the much touted Clinton fund for Haiti? Just a bigger scam version of Chris Christie’s wife’s fund for the Jersey shore folk. The band plays on.

  10. Annie
    January 5, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    This is not an “image problem” for HRC, these are indisputable facts that she will not answer to. Rather, she diverts to another topic. And for that matter, “what middle class” is she hoping to be a champion of? The middle-class has essentially disappeared. I heard on one TV MSM state that the “middle class income” was “less than $250,000 per year”!!!!!!! $250,000???? Sounds pretty wealthy to me.

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