June 9th, 2014
08:41 AM ET
5 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. Bill from GA

    So she " came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt ", and had just bought a 1.7 MILLION dollar house in a new state so she could run for Senator there.

    Nice, if you can get it.

    "Fellow Americans, i understand your pain." (Actually, that was her husband's line.)

    June 9, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  2. Bill from GA

    "I never had any money until I got out of the White House"
    " As President, Clinton made $200,000 a year plus $50,000 in tax free, yearly expense account, "

    " Fellow Americans, I feel you pain. I never had any money either, only $200,000 a year plus $50,000 in tax free, yearly expense account "

    I guess they did have to pay taxes on the $200,000 salary. Ain't life a Bi*ch! But we did give em a nice 747 to fly around in.

    June 9, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. Sniffit

    "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."

    Derp herp derpy derp, herp derp? Blah blah yammer yammer capitalism herp derpy Bill Clinton signed NAFTA for cryoing out loud grumble grumble you don't even know what socialism is yada yada talking point parrot.

    June 9, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  4. Bill from GA

    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"

    **
    It was doubled under Clinton, but didn't take effect until Clinton left office. That's how the law was written.

    I would blame W for the World Economic Crash of 2008, the illegal and unnecessary Iraq War, environmental destruction through lack of enforcement of EPA rules, etc. But he didn't raise his salary.

    June 9, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  5. prpgk1

    She said she was broke after leaving the White House this was back in 2002. So she and her husband have had twelve years to make a substantial sum of money which they have. So the 5M in speaking fees is just gravy. So she is being intentionally misleading if not dishonest when she claims that her need for money now is related to her being broke in 2002.
    Obviously now she and her husband have done very well for themselves.

    June 9, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  6. Ol' Yeller

    Dubya might have better luck getting speaking engagements if,
    A. He could erase his past as a War criminal, currently wanted on international warrants and unable to visit certain countries on the fear of arrest.
    B. He could speak intelligibly.
    C. If he did not choose to speak before hate groups (see Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, before you start crying).
    D. Anyone besides his mother actually liked him.
    E. All of the above.

    I have pointed out on here several times this is one of the reasons the republicants cannot win (without cheating) a National Presidential Election.... they have no statesmen on their side to come speak for them... no respected leaders. People pay huge amounts to hear Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and you can add Michelle, Obama, and Joe to the list the next go around and for decades to come. Outside some insane groupies who follow cruz, palin, and paul around like Deadheads... who does the republicants have that normal non-mentally ill people would pay to hear?
    Answer... no one.
    Result- great for America as you cannot gerrymand the Presidential election... though they try (Oh Lord, do they try...)

    June 9, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  7. Sniffit

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

    At least Liberals pay for things"

    Yeah, and know how to properly pluralize their words too.

    June 9, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  8. MattyinNC

    Every President since Reagan has been making money on the talking circuit. Reagan made $2 million for two speeches in Japan. "W" charges $100k to $150,000 per speech.

    June 9, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  9. Bill from GA

    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. "

    W don't need to do speeches; he's got a rich Daddy.
    Plus, Uncle Dickie (cheney) is probably paying him millions to keep quiet.

    June 9, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  10. Sniffit

    "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"

    **
    It was doubled under Clinton, but didn't take effect until Clinton left office. That's how the law was written.

    I would blame W for the World Economic Crash of 2008, the illegal and unnecessary Iraq War, environmental destruction through lack of enforcement of EPA rules, etc. But he didn't raise his salary."

    You missed the point: it was a Republican congress that did it. Nobody cares that Dubya wasn't the one to sign it, but when Clinton-hating GOP/Teatroll rednecks want to complain that he got paid $200K just because they hate him, it looks a little foolish in light of the fact that the people they do support were the ones to double it.

    June 9, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  11. citizenUSA

    Look, we all knew the Clintons were greedy when Bill was in office. If people are willing to pay her whatever who's gonna turn it down? But I doubt she ever felt much of "our" pain. They were broke leaving the White House because of the legal problems they BOTH had.

    June 9, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  12. Hector Slagg

    Whazzat, Think again?,
    Was that you calling someone an ingrate? My, how the mighty have fallen. Liberal's pay for things? So, why after 100 years of Liberal's running things do we have a nearly, soon to be, 18 Trillion Dollar Federal Debt? Democrats had the Congress for 40 years. So why, I might ask, isn't everything fixed by now. Still blaming Bush? Who invented the "Liar" Loans for everybody and his brother getting a mortgage with no means to pay for it. Oh, sorry, that was the Republican's the last 100 years. Maybe George Bush was only following the Liberal Mantra. WITH YOUR MONEY AND MY BRAINS, WE WILL GO PLACES. Your plan, your success. No? And Hillary still spewing Snake Oil, sure to fix everything the Liberal'a couldn't fix the last 100 years, no? Better think again, Think Again.

    June 9, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  13. Open2most

    She should go back to being a commodities broker. She did so well at it and knows so much about cattle, specifically bulls.

    June 9, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  14. calvin

    Whoever is whining about Clinton's paid speeches is simply jealous. She is technically a private citizen and can do as many speeches for money as she wants. And for all you ignorant folks out there, if you think she's the only one, then think again.

    June 9, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  15. Chris

    Sweet! The Clintons are part of the 99 percent!

    June 9, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. TheObserver

    IF ANYONE IN POLITICS OR PUBLIC SERVICE IS WONDERING, AT ALL, WHY THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS FEEL A HUGE DISCONNECT BETWEEN THEM AND THEIR ELECTED LEADERS, THIS STORY WAS YET ANOTHER SHINING EXAMPLE. IT WAS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW NEITHER PARTY IN WASHINGTON HAS ANYONE LEFT WHO HAS ANY CONCEPT OF WHAT YOUR AVERAGE AMERICAN HAS TO DO TO EXIST AND NOT GO POOR.

    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." (RIGHT, BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS HOW WHITEHOUSE FAMILIES ALWAYS PAY THE SAME AMOUNT AS EVERYONE ELSE AND ARE NEVER ACCOMMODATED OR GIVEN FINANCIAL HELP)

    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 got to the White House and "struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education." (KIND OF LIKE ALL THE OTHER PRESIDENTS WHO HAD NO MONEY, BUT SOMEHOW ENTER AND LEAVE THE WHITEHOUSE INDEPENDENT MILLIONAIRES)

    In 1980 CEO's made about $15 to every dollar that the entry level worker made. Now it's well above $50 nearly everywhere, with many larger companies CEO's making upwards of $200 to every $1 of the entry level employee.

    This past year, 26 American Fortune 500 companies paid $0 taxes. In 1950 more than 1/3 of American tax revenue was corporate taxes. Currently it's LESS THAN ONE TENTH. Iran and Nigeria have PASSED US in income equality, as well as Egypt. There are more millionaires in congress than ever, and there are more than 100 congresspeople with a direct family member who is a federally registered lobbyist.

    The problem is not red vs blue.

    TERM LIMITS!!!!!!!!!!!!! TERM LIMITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 9, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  17. Bill from GA

    Sniffit – " You missed the point: "

    HERE IS THE POINT:
    " Who can subsist on such pittance?
    -––
    Apparently not GW Bush."

    Can't you even read? The point is to attack BUSH for something he did NOT do.
    The point was not to attack the Republican congress under Clinton.
    And, BTW, Clinton could have vetoed the bill if he had wanted to.

    June 9, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  18. Marty

    The news media should leave this poor old woman alone. let her earn her money and go into her golden years as a grandmother and retiree.

    June 9, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  19. uhhuh

    an't you even read? The point is to attack BUSH for something he did NOT do.

    No, that was not the point.

    The point was in reference to the comment of living on a pittance of $200,000 which apparently is good for the goose
    but not for the gander.

    Stop putting words in my mouth.

    June 9, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  20. Bill from GA

    Sniffit

    Further, you are playing the idiotic game of: if I like it, my man did it. if i don't like it, your Congress did it.

    Righties credit Gingrich for all the good that happened under Clinton, lefties blame repub congress for all the bad that happened under Clinton. I don't really think raising the prez salary to $400K is bad. I'm glad Barry and family are getting it.

    But you are being a hypocrite blaming it on the repub congress. They didn't override a Clinton veto to pass the bill, so it is Clinton's.

    June 9, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. Serious Truth

    Clinton's net worth $50M +. Wish I was "not only dead broke but in debt". I guess some people still believe her.

    June 9, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  22. Ol' Yeller

    Free Market capitalism at its best and yet the Clinton bashers will ignore this and continue to cry and boo hoo about anything this past President (and his soon to be President wife) have ever did, done, planned, talked about, been accused of etc... etc.. etc...
    They are just jealous because they have no statesmen on their side and by the looks of thing, will not have any in the near future.

    June 9, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  23. humtake

    A family making, at the minimum, $200k per year for 8 years comes out and says they were broke and in debt. This completely explains why Clinton's policies doomed us to the economic crisis. Liberals only see what is right in front of them and don't understand there are repercussions to every decision...like, paying off one form of debt with another form of debt means, you guessed it, YOU STILL HAVE THE SAME AMOUNT OF DEBT. Yet, Clinton is somehow still credited with having a surplus that he never had.

    All this proves is that the Clintons truly have no idea how to manage money. They realized once they left office that private finances don't work like public finances. There isn't an endless debt limit in private finances. They were more than willing to add to this country's debt because they knew once they were out of office they wouldn't have to deal with it anymore. Unfortunately, it looks like they never realized that their private finances would stick with them even after leaving office.

    These are the kinds of people who are in charge of our budgets, on both sides. Very sad indeed, but easily explains why we are so far in debt.

    June 9, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  24. old age voter

    Speeches; forget speeches; you need the investigation into the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund that Bill Clinton been overseeing and 3.2 BILLION dollars has been spent with no real / measureable work to show for the money spent. Where did all that money go!

    June 9, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  25. Silence DoGood

    @Hector Slagg ..." 100 years of Liberal's running things..."
    ----------
    Ah yes, the 100 years whine again. Note to Women voters out there: 100 years ago you were not allowed to even vote. Just a heads up on where conservatives want to return you!

    June 9, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
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