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

    uhhuh – "Apparently not GW Bush.""

    So, it is apparent to YOU that Bush couldn't live on $200K for his job?? Any evidence of that?

    I never heard W asking that the salary be raised. W did plenty enough wrong to attack him on without making it up. That's my point. There is evidence of it

    June 9, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  2. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    His name is NOT Barry, Bill. It's Barack.

    June 9, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. Say WHAT???

    Sniffit
    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.
    -–

    Most intelligent thing you have said in here in a long time.

    June 9, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  4. Lizzie

    uhhuh
    Apparently not GW Bush.
    "The president's yearly salary was doubled to $400,000 after Clinton left the White House"
    - Pres.Bush DID not increase HIS salary that was Pres.Clinton, however Senator Hllary Clinton INCREASED the sec.of state salary knowing full well that she has the job.

    June 9, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  5. GreyMan

    So now she's being attacked for how much money she earns. Did Romney have to justify his income? This reeks of desperation.

    June 9, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  6. Sniffit

    "uhhuh – "Apparently not GW Bush.""

    So, it is apparent to YOU that Bush couldn't live on $200K for his job?? Any evidence of that?

    I never heard W asking that the salary be raised. W did plenty enough wrong to attack him on without making it up. That's my point. There is evidence of it"

    Why do you insist on trying to read into it that the comment is attacking Dubya as though he is the one who raised it? Again, the point is that conservatives attacking Clinton's $200K just because they hate Clinton have very little ground to stand on when it was a GOP congress that double it.

    June 9, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  7. Lizzie

    Sniffit, yes liberals like to pay for things with other peoples money, just don't touch anything that belongs to them.
    Ol' Yeller, just think and on top of that they get retirement pay and free healthcare.
    Might want to remember Pres.Bush had money before he came to the WH.

    June 9, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "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.
    -–

    Most intelligent thing you have said in here in a long time."

    Just thought I'd speak your language so you could finally understand what I say.

    June 9, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. Guest

    Funny how Clinton left the country in the black for the first time in decades. Who spent all the money since then?

    June 9, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  10. Kudon

    She never made any money until she left the White House? I guess she forgot about how her "expertise" in trading cattle futures was able to grow here $1,000 investment to $100,000 in 10 months (that's $360K today). Or her sugar investments that she made a bunch of money on and "forgot" to pay taxes until finally penalized in the 1990's. This woman is so full of it.

    June 9, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    "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?"

    Why? Again, the $18T debt is almost entirely caused by the Bush tax cuts, 2 unfunded wars, unfunded Medicare Part D and a massive recession as a result of deregulation and negligent oversight of Wall Street. Guess which party was in control when all of that came about. Guess.

    June 9, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. James

    As a conservative I don't see an issue with this. I people are wanting to put up the bucks the more power to her.

    June 9, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  13. Liz

    It's been reported the Clintons are worth over $100 million. where is the redistribution of her wealth. Hillary do the right thing give the money to charity. The rich Democrats.

    June 9, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  14. Tommy G

    So here's the bottom line. It is OK for liberals and lefties to make millions or billions because their cause is noble and good (according to them) and has nothing to do with the money, that is just a nice side affect. But anybody else who makes a lot of money is evil, greedy and ripping people off, oppressing and destroying the middle class, and making the whole world unfair because of income inequality.

    Funny (or sick) thing about it is that there are actually many on the left out there that think and belief this leftist rubbish.

    June 9, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  15. 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."

    I'm not being a hypocrite. I never complained about either salary. POTUS never gets to sign anything unless Congress puts it in front of him. You're consistently attacking people as if they're trying to blame Bush for doubling the POTUS's salary, but they're not...you're just reading that into their comments. What they're saying is that people who want to make fun of Clinton for making $200K are just doing it because they hate Clinton, since they have no problem with the GOP legislature initiating a doubling of that salary or Dubya earning it. It's just more RWNJ knee-jerk reactionary blabber caused by their extremist conservative autonomic reaction to any mention of a Clinton.

    June 9, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. Janet Nappylotto

    Biden needs to get his friends from the IRS to audit the Clinton Foundation or have Holder investigate the $1 billion lost by the State Department during her tenure as SOS.

    June 9, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  17. just asking

    how many millions have the clinton's made or taken from their clinton global initiative scam? open up the books.

    June 9, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Sniffit

    w had nothing to do with the pay hike. No reason to bring him into the discussion except to unjustly attack him.
    Plenty of facts to attack him on WO making it up.

    June 9, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  19. ldean50

    It's all about supply and demand, Tommy G. Evidently, people don't value Bush's background to pay what they do Bill Clinton. After all, we're a capitalist country! lol

    June 9, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "So here's the bottom line. It is OK for liberals and lefties to make millions or billions because their cause is noble and good (according to them) and has nothing to do with the money, that is just a nice side affect. But anybody else who makes a lot of money is evil, greedy and ripping people off, oppressing and destroying the middle class, and making the whole world unfair because of income inequality."

    Sure, you can mischaracterize it that way if you have insufficient brain power to understand. Of course, then some smart-ss will point out that rich people who support policies like increasing their own taxes are behaving in an altruistic manner for the benefit of society, while those who spend millions to do things like prevent everyone from having health insurance or to kill Medicare or the minimum wage are selfish, arrogant wannabe oligarchs who would see the country become a banana republic if it means they get to rule over the masses.

    June 9, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  21. james

    I have no problem with the Clinton family making as much money as they can. God bless--However, I am under no illusion that the Clinton family cares one little bit about everyday working Americans. They are simply another member of the Wall Street elite, who make millions, babbling on about how much they care about the working poor-– while in fact doing nothing to help most Americans who can barely make ends meet.

    June 9, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  22. Bill

    "struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses"

    Keyword: Houses. Plural. Its not easy to pay the mortgageS on their houseS AND educate their child at one of the most expensive private schools in the country. What are they, commoners?!

    Her defense here is weak, but she shouldn't have been defending herself at all. She has a name, a face, and a voice that people want to meet, see, and hear. I don't like her politics, I wouldn't pay to hear her speak, but to begrudge her for taking advantage of the reputation that SHE worked to build? Pathetic.

    June 9, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. Pano

    I don't resent Mrs. Clinton's $5M in speaking fees. I find it duplicitous that she somehow does not see herself as one of the 1%, who she always criticizes.

    June 9, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  24. Thomas

    She will make a much better president then her husband .

    I don't think she will be having any affairs with any white house interns .

    June 9, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  25. uhhuh

    @Sniffit
    "What they're saying is that people who want to make fun of Clinton for making $200K are just doing it because they hate Clinton, since they have no problem with the GOP legislature initiating a doubling of that salary or Dubya earning it. It's just more RWNJ knee-jerk reactionary blabber caused by their extremist conservative autonomic reaction to any mention of a Clinton

    ------------
    Exactly-Thank you.

    June 9, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
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