June 9th, 2014
08:41 AM ET
6 months ago

Highlighting family's post-WH debt, Clinton defends paid speeches

Updated 1:00 p.m. ET, 6/9/2014

Washington (CNN) – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the fact she's reportedly made $5 million in speaking fees since leaving the State Department in early 2013 by arguing that her family "came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt."

Clinton, pressed by ABC's Diane Sawyer in a clip of a larger interview that will air Monday night, added that her family had "no money" when they left the White House and "struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education."

"You know, it was not easy," she said in the excerpt, which aired Monday morning on "Good Morning America."

Hillary Clinton: By the numbers

Clinton has become a staple on the paid speaking circuit. She has appeared before a wide array of audiences, including trade associations, business groups and college students. Although she regularly speaks for free at certain events, Mother Jones reported earlier this year that Clinton made roughly $5 million dollars on the speaking circuit since stepping down as America's top diplomat.

One the speaking circuit, organizers for different events argue that paying Clinton the high fee is worthwhile because of the attention and audiences she can command.

Hillary Clinton isn't the only member of her family cashing in on the speaking circuit, either. A CNN analysis of the family's financial records in early 2013 showed that former President Bill Clinton had earned $106 million from paid speeches since leaving the White House in January 2001. In 2012 alone, Bill Clinton earned $17 million in fees.

"Bill has worked really hard and it has been amazing to me. He has worked very hard," Clinton said. "First of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which you had to make double the money because of obviously taxes and then pay off the debts and get us houses and take care of family members."

Bill Clinton was an elected official on a fixed government salary for all but two years from 1977, when he took office as the Arkansas attorney general, until leaving the White House in January 2001. Hillary Clinton spent some time, though, as a lawyer in Little Rock, Arkansas.

"I never had any money until I got out of the White House, you know, but I've done reasonably well since then," said Clinton of his earning power at a 2010 forum in Cape Town, South Africa.

As President, Clinton made $200,000 a year plus $50,000 in a tax free, yearly expense account, according to the U.S. Code for Compensation of the President. The president's yearly salary was doubled to $400,000 after Clinton left the White House.

Though not as profitable as Bill Clinton – who has made as much as $750,000 in one speech – Hillary Clinton reportedly commands $200,000 per speech.

Asked if she thought Americans could understand making "five times the median income in this country for one speech," Clinton said she "thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do."

American Rising, the pro-Republican opposition research shop that along with the Republican National Committee, takes the lead in criticizing Clinton, was quick to ping her over her comments aired Monday morning by ABC, saying they "reveal someone who is extremely out-of-touch with financial reality facing Americans."

On their website, America Rising said that the two homes the Clintons purchased after leaving the White House (Chappaqua, New York and Washington DC) combined cost around $4.5 million.

The Clintons departed the White House in debt, thanks to enormous legal fees. By the end of 2000, the Clintons carried debt totaling somewhere between $2.28 million to $10.6 million.

But their assets soon grew

Bill Clinton made more than $9.2 million in speaking fees in 2001 and more than $9.5 million in 2002.

The Clintons paid off their legal fees by 2004.

- CNN Political Research Director Robert Yoon contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2016 • Bill Clinton • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (145 Responses)
  1. Randy, San Francisco

    No explanations or apologies needed. It has become the norm for well known Republican and Democratic personalities to make lucrative income from the speaking circuit.

    June 9, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  2. danicalifornia

    How is it possible then, that she and Bill amassed a mere $100 million. Wasn't that the big shock the last time she ran for the presidency in 2008 and she released her taxes? Come on people – how do these people who lived in public housing their entire life be broke after Bill left the White House. Who cares about their mortgage or tuition bills – welcome to the real world. Seriously, $100M.

    June 9, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  3. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    SO WHAT, I thought the GOP believed in FREE ENTERPRISE . Romney worth 300 million dollars , ISSA the CLOWN worth 450 MILLION, enjoy your last couple of months in office you incompetent CLOWN. The GOP= the GARBAGE and SEWAGE of America .

    June 9, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    -I shall vote and support, and campaign for Hillary. Yes, on Hillary16.
    PS: first woman president in American history. USA is changing, NRA.

    June 9, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  5. Hector Slagg

    Humm,
    Well. I guess Clinton'r feel like that flight of B-17's that flew into Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Out of gas and no ammunition. But, they had an excuse. Clinton's excuse? Oh, poor peasants also out of gas and no ammunition! But why? Maybe they bought the same success plan as the Clinton's and Tax and Spend Liberal's. I can see the Clinton's have learned nothing about success unless it is on the backs of others. And to think some want Hillary as their next President. If so, you will still be out of gas and no ammunition.

    June 9, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  6. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Don't forget all the legal bills they wracked up thanks to Kenneth Starr's investigation to nowhere!

    June 9, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  7. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    If people were going to pay me to speak you darn tootin', I'd speak too!

    Next up for criticism.....

    Hillary only wears pants....maybe she's not REALLY a woman!!

    FIFY

    June 9, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  8. S.B. Stein

    If people want to hear her speak and can afford it, then good for them and for Hillary Clinton. Do I have that money? Not even close; better she pay her debt and make some charitable contributions with what she earns.

    June 9, 2014 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  9. salty dog

    They left broke, why did George leave the white house the richest president to leave office? You do the math, 2 billion came up missing, cash, American money, pallets of it, loaded into a haliburton submarine, left with the money, when they arrived in the middle east, no money, go figure, that was hands down the worst president in our nations history, and their policies and proposals are still the same. SMH.

    June 9, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    It's a double standard. Nobody makes an issue out of Sarah Palin's speaking fees, reality shows, documentary movie, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Why is it a problem for Clinton? It's a free country. It's how she makes a living.

    June 9, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  11. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I'm confused.... Is Hillary strong arming these groups that want her to speak? Is it an armed robbery?? If not, why is this even an issue???

    June 9, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Hector Slagg

    Humm,
    Well. I guess Clinton'r feel like that flight of B-17's that flew into Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Out of gas and no ammunition. But, they had an excuse. Clinton's excuse? Oh, poor peasants also out of gas and no ammunition! But why? Maybe they bought the same success plan as the Clinton's and Tax and Spend Liberal's. I can see the Clinton's have learned nothing about success unless it is on the backs of others. And to think some want Hillary as their next President. If so, you will still be out of gas and no ammunition.
    -----------------------------------
    You're a conservative, one who sounds quite experienced on being out of gas and no ammunition.

    June 9, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  13. Bill

    Yeah, they were so hard up they were trying to rent out spare bedrooms in the white house on craigslist before the secret service stopped them. Poor Clintons

    June 9, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  14. notthetroll

    Maybe the apology was implied, but there isn't one necessary. People offer to pay for something they have and they traded it for the money, case closed. I think the reason the quotes, while conciliatory, were made was because the Clintons aren't fully embraced in the idea of capitalism or the image they try to portray to the ideas they support isn't vested in capitalism. You don't have to apologize for making money in America when what you do is within the law. However, when your staunchest followers are radical professors and students who support socialistic ideas, it might not be a good look to make so many millions.

    June 9, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  15. Darrell

    A 200k yearly salary? The poor thing! Who can subsist on such pittance?

    June 9, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  16. Silence DoGood

    @Rudy NYC
    It's a double standard. Nobody makes an issue out of Sarah Palin's speaking fees, reality shows, documentary movie, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Why is it a problem for Clinton? It's a free country. It's how she makes a living.
    -----------
    The radical Right has blown through any logical arguments at this point. The apparent plan is to fling out fact free tidbits of innuendo in the hopes that Conspiracy Theories will grow and flourish.

    June 9, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  17. TexasArmadillo

    If someone offered me that much money to give a speech, I would. Wouldn’t you?

    June 9, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  18. uhhuh

    Darrell
    A 200k yearly salary? The poor thing! Who can subsist on such pittance?
    -----–
    Apparently not GW Bush.
    "The president's yearly salary was doubled to $400,000 after Clinton left the White House"

    June 9, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  19. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    Righties are just jealous because GW can't stay sober long enough to do speeches.

    June 9, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  20. John Paul Jones

    Made their money off of the taxpayers; like all govt employees...............

    June 9, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  21. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @Silence Do Good: "The radical Right has blown through any logical arguments at this point. The apparent plan is to fling out fact free tidbits of innuendo in the hopes that Conspiracy Theories will grow and flourish."

    And it will – because only brain-dead, hate-filled, scapegoating vote gop/tea bag.

    June 9, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  22. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @John Paul Jones: "Made their money off of the taxpayers; like all govt employees..............."

    Be sure to tell that to a cop/firefighter/EMT or any military personnel defending your freedom the next time you see one, you ingrate.

    June 9, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  23. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @John Paul Jones: "Made their money off of the taxpayers; like all govt employees..............."

    Like the Dick Cheney, or John cradle-to-grave McGrumpy or Ronald Reagan. I guess the big question is whether Palin gets all her retirement money from Alaska or just half since she quit without completing her job...?

    June 9, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  24. Mike Lee

    Who cares how much money she makes per speech? This is America right? She should be paid what the market demands.

    The sad part is that some saps actually donated to her when she cried poor over campaign debts after losing to Obama in 08.

    June 9, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  25. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @Hector Slagg: "Tax and Spend Liberal's."

    At least Liberals pay for things, unlike the tax cut/go to war/keep the cost off the books so-called "conservatives."

    BTW, GW Bush oversaw the largest government expansion since the New Deal. In fact, not since World War II, had government spending played such a large role in our economy as when GW and his "conservatives" been in charge.

    Chew on that for a moment ...

    June 9, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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