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. Monomachos

    So out of touch with the common people – isn't that what Democrats said about Romney simply because he was rich, too? Romney at least,drives his own car.

    June 9, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "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."

    You guys really really need to learn the difference between criticizing a group of people versus pointing out that they're being handed a massive redistribution of the country's wealth and assets as a result of our policies.

    The actual criticism only comes in once you start looking at HOW 1%-ers use that massive UPWARDS redistribution of wealth and the wealth it generates for them, and at that point nobody is generalizing about ALL 1%-ers anymore, because it splits: Those that use and abuse their wealth to try to accelerate the redistribution of wealth towards themselves and away from the middle-class are scum. Those that do not, and actually support policies that will help others get ahead as well, policies that will actually help stop the UPWARD redistribution of wealth because thy recognize they already have plenty...those people are just fine.

    June 9, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. uhhuh

    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.
    ------–

    Congress LOWERED the secretary of State salary in 2008, in order for Hillary Clinton to be eligible to even take the job.

    June 9, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. Jon

    $250k/yr. with room and board, for eight years, and they were broke? How out of touch have our politicians become when they actually expect sympathy for struggling to get by on a measly two million tax-payer dollars? "It was not easy"? ...try living like an average citizen. What a joke.

    June 9, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Marie MD

    Having served our country , very well mind you, the Clintons are probably the only WH residents who did not have a prior homes as their home was in Arkansas and paid for by the state. Remember?
    What is the excuse of the twit and all his money? What about his fake tax return which he filled but not until he lost actually sent it to pay less taxes? What about a mansion with car elevators.
    The teaklans better NOT go anywhere about money and the Clinton's when they have their puppeteers handing out money to buy elections and gerrymandering districts!

    June 9, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    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.
    =================================================================
    They're just winding up for the big finishing yell, "Look, Hillary got paid to do their bidding."

    On another note, Bill Clinton had a Republican during most of his tenure. Likewise, George W. Bush had a Republican Congress during most of his tenure.

    June 9, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    Several decades of POTUSes and potential POTUSes making money hand over fist for speaking fees: no problem.

    First female potential POTUS who really looks like she might achieve the WH: has to "defend" her speaking fees.

    Any questions? Thought so. Kudos to ABC and CNN for so effectively channeling our nation's misogyny. Whatever you do, don't let this narrative die...it's a real winner for you and your networks.

    June 9, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. Bill from GA

    Sniffit –

    When the comment is:

    " A 200k yearly salary? The poor thing! Who can subsist on such pittance?
    -––
    Apparently not GW Bush. "

    How can this be interpreted except that the writer thinks that Bush wanted the salary raised? No point to bring Bush into the discussion except for this false criticism. Leftie knee-jerk reaction. And the righties do the same thing, even more so. Doesn't make it right.

    The writer is stating that, to him, it is apparent that Bush can't subsist on such pittance.
    And there is no evidence to back up the claim; just lefties senseless attack on Bush.
    Attack Bush all you want to, but stick to the facts or face criticism.

    June 9, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. Marie MD

    How could I forget. Why do you think the AK screecher quit her job half way through her governorship?
    It was so that an uneducated high pitch trailer trash hick could become a millionaire.

    June 9, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. tidho

    They left the WhiteHouse broke and America still wants to put her in charge of the economy. LMAO. Serves us right.

    June 9, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Erik Richard

    George W Bush and Condi Rice are both high priced speakers post office as well. This article makes it sound like it's an uncommon practice. It's not.

    June 9, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. rick3807

    Diane Sawyer makes $12 million a year and has a net worth of over $60 million. Just how does she justify giving Hillary a hard time about speaking fees?

    June 9, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  13. Ken

    "Had to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses and Chelsea's education". First of all you're kidding yourself if you think the Clinton's paid one cent for Chelsea's education out of their pocket. Mortgages for Houses as in plural meaning multiple houses were purchased. Yes, the poor Clintons had a very hard time trying to cleanse their earnings from White Water.

    June 9, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. Jake

    Clinton made $106M over the past 12 years and they're crying that they're broke? FDR listeded to Otto VonBismark and replicated the German version of Social Security. LBJ installed Medicare. Reagan cut taxes, Slick Wille expanded Medicare. Bush created Medicare Part D. My point? Expansion of entitlements, an aging population, an antiquated tax policy, and the desire of politicans to do what's best for their party instead ofthe country and viola....you have a deficit of nearly $600B annually and now nearly $18T in total debt. And to make matters worse, in the midst of the worst financial time in the past 80 years, Obama passes health reform. How do you fix stupid? Where is that money coming from? We simply can not continue to spend what we don't have.

    June 9, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  15. ncmyk

    most people don't realize this, but the first family gets a bill every month for living in the White House.

    for example, the White House chef makes your dinner and its not a State function dinner....you get a hefty bill.

    you do not get free room and board at the White House.

    June 9, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "" A 200k yearly salary? The poor thing! Who can subsist on such pittance?
    -––
    Apparently not GW Bush. "

    How can this be interpreted except that the writer thinks that Bush wanted the salary raised? No point to bring Bush into the discussion except for this false criticism. Leftie knee-jerk reaction"

    No, as I said, the point of bringing him and his $400K salary into the discussion was to point out that those folks attacking Clinton for making $200K are hypocrites who say nothing about Dubya making twice that much. That hypocrisy is still apparent regardless of who doubled it...altho it is made even more apparent when you look at the fact that a GOP-led legislature enacted it.

    June 9, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. Ken

    Marie – You do realize that the Clintons are from Arkansas don't you. Funny that you would use "Trailer trash hick that became a millionaire".

    June 9, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Monomachos

    So out of touch with the common people – isn't that what Democrats said about Romney simply because he was rich, too? Romney at least,drives his own car.
    -------------------------------------–
    You're wrong on all counts. Mitt Romney really was out of touch. He went to New Orleans and ate grits for the first time in his life. He makes ten thousand dollar bets. He talks funny, too. "The trees are the right height." "What's sauce for the gander, is sauce for the goose."

    June 9, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "Diane Sawyer makes $12 million a year and has a net worth of over $60 million. Just how does she justify giving Hillary a hard time about speaking fees?"

    Ad revenue is the new arbiter of truth.

    June 9, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. winevoucher

    If people want to hear the Butcher of Benghazi speak then that's their business.

    June 9, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  21. freedom

    What about Whitewater. Didn't someone die for her financial gain? She's a liar, remember?

    June 9, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  22. Guest

    @Jake

    You are right. Can't fix stupid. She never said she IS broke. She said they were broke when they left the WH 12 years ago. Never owned a house before because he lived in the Governor's mansion. All monies earned while in office went to legal fees. True the WH does cost money to live in. It is NOT free room and board. And again, Clinton had the country in the black for the first time in decades.

    June 9, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  23. larry

    Hates the 1%er's until she wants their money, then she loves them. And, of course she just loves being one of them.

    June 9, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  24. Bill from GA

    "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"

    Speaking for myself only, i wasn't making fun of Clinton for making $200K, I was making fun of Clinton for making $200K and saying "I never had any money until I got out of the White House".

    Most of us making 4 times the average American salary would not belittle it so. Not to mention, having a nice 747 to fly around in. (As opposed to an ordinary 747, Ya know.) It does make the Clintons seem out of touch with the average American.

    June 9, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  25. Yakobi

    "her family "came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt." "
    Is that because of all the fines Bill had to pay for lying to investigators?

    "if she thought Americans could understand making "five times the median income in this country for one speech," "
    And this old lady thinks she'll be able to connect with college students who weren't even alive when her husband was elected president? Yeah, right.

    You people do realize she's been running for president for 40 years, don't you?

    June 9, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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