June 9th, 2014
08:41 AM ET
9 years 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."

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"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. TheDuck

    Hillary Clinton has no clue what having no money, and in debt means compared to the rest of this country. Boohoo, you mishandled your money if you were in debt after having all expenses paid for for 8 years making 400k a year. Normal Americans don't make that in 10 years a lot of the time, and can't give ridiculously expensive speeches to recoup. Talk about out of touch

    June 9, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Steve

    Is it not alarming to anyone that our former president for two terms and potential president in the near future went into personal debt? You know, the people running our country?

    June 9, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. John

    And how is getting paid to speak any different from leaving office and doing anything else you get paid for partially because of your experiences in office? How many politicians on both sides leave office, take their contact list and experience and go to lobbying firms? How many go and teach later... getting paid... for people... to hear... them speak (and then grade them of course :p). This isn't even an issue that merits discussion.

    June 9, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. sly

    "DaveinIL: A politician is only about money and power whether their name is Bush, Clinton or Obama!"
    And Kennedy, Nixon, Reagun, George Washington, Abe Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Ike ....

    Yup – all politicians are evil, and all other Americans are brilliant and perfect.

    Why don't we elect Presidents that are 'other Americans'? Those first 100 Presidents or so all seem to be always wrong. And of course, all the rest of us Americans are always right!

    Yup, it's always 'THEM'. Never 'us'. Because we are so brilliant, and all people holding ANY office are all dumb.

    June 9, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. John

    Lawyer, first lady, senator, secretary of state..................Will she have more/diversified experience than anyone who has ever run for president?

    June 9, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. Know Your Subject

    Hillary just HAD to chip in and make all of those paid speeches because it was so hard to make ends meet on Bill's $100+ million from speeches.

    June 9, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  7. elana

    OMG! how stupid are people.If you have the potential to earn big bucks – then do it. This is about two very educated very well known people. They were the biggest money draw for the Dem party for years. If they can do it – more power to them. The rest of people are jealous! Become smart and in national lime light, and you can make the money too. Every president does this after they are out of office. This is nothing new. And yes they were in tremendous debt. They had to pay for the stupidity of the Rep party suing Bill. HUGE legal fees. And Hilary had her own legal issues to clear up as well. people are just jealous. Oh – and Bill did not make 400k a year. He made 200k. The salary doubled AFTER he left the WH. We, as a country should be complaining about that salary hike, BTW.

    June 9, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  8. Bill from GA

    Rudy NYC – " 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, ... "

    Rudy, the comment I was quoting was obviously about Bill Clinton, and my comment was also.
    From the article: " As President, Clinton made $200,000 a year " clearly is about Bill

    Surely you know that righties hated Bill as much as they do Hill. They impeached him! No regard for the country, they wanted BLOOD!!!

    June 9, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC


    Is it not alarming to anyone that our former president for two terms and potential president in the near future went into personal debt? You know, the people running our country?
    What is so alarming about someone taking out a home mortgage?

    June 9, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. Bill from GA

    TheDuck – " ... having all expenses paid for for 8 years making 400k "

    Can't you read, TD? Hill-n-Bill ONLY got $200K a year.
    Hey, YOU try living on $200K a year. It Ain't Easy!!

    That's why Bill raised it before W took office.

    June 9, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. 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.


    Agreed. I know we agree on some things Bill, and on some others we don't. What I do like about your comments are they are reasonable and fair even though you lean towards the democrats. The gang could learn from you that sometimes their side isn't correct."

    Except, well, you know, I literally can't be playing that game, because I honestly don't give a flying rat's pink patoot what Clinton or Dubya made as their POTUS salaries or who set the salary size. As I've repeatedly explained now, the point of highlighting that Dubya made twice as much is not who doubled it and who received the double salary EXCEPT to the extent we're talking about the hypocrisy people who posted attacks on Clinton for being paid $200K because they simply hate Clinton...but then they seem to have no problem with Dubya making twice as much as a result of a GOP legislature enacting the doubling of it. Of course Clinton signed it, but that doesn't erase their hypocrisy.

    June 9, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. NameFrank Deery

    Bonnie and Clyde of 2014! He was impeached for lieing to a Grand Jury(but by the House of Reps, not Democrat Senate-which al Qaeda perceived as "weak". Thus, 9/11.
    She helped muzzle the 4 real witnesses to Benghazi, which her anger-and arrogance- at
    Such A Question proved: she blew it!

    Old Farts of dead time-still trying to sell the
    snake oil! Bergdahl-oh, Excuse Me, PFC Bergdahl is their legacy.

    June 9, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  13. Reggie53

    What the Clintons would call "broke" would be us the American workers would call rich so I feel no sympathy for them.

    June 9, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    ""blah blah blah they are just doing it because they hate Clinton blah blah blah"


    But he's a WHITE MALE so they should like him and since you keep telling us the singular and most dominant (and pretty much ONLY) reason people "hate" Barack Obama."

    Sorry, but Clinton was the "first black president"...or don't you remember? haha. Actually, there are remarkable similarities between the manner in which the GOP/Teatrolls freaked out over Obama and the way the GOP treated Clinton, with the past 6 years just being worse as a result of the racial aspects. In both situations, the GOP went nuts an spewed all sorts of crap about socialism and deliberately riled up the confederate-throwback southern-strategy anti-gov't weekend daycamp pseudo-militia wannabe-warrior "sovereign citizen" crowd and caused a measurable increase in their membership and their anti-gov't planning and activities, resulting in things like the OK bombing and this weekends little foray into "revolution" in Nevada. They also spent the entirety of their time in Congress during both presidencies doing nothing but trying to manufacture impeachment and bring the entire gov't to a standstill and crumbling ruin. Well, at least until Clinton broken them and they actually learned a lesson after shutting down the gov't and being blamed for it. This time they refuse to learn that lesson and idiots like Cruz are even claiming shutting down he gov't has helped them. You can see the additional race-resentment part of the right wing freakout when it comes to Obama though...the part that makes it even worse than how they reacted to Clinton being POTUS...in all the voter and election process changes they've been scrambling to pile on across the country.

    June 9, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  15. SGT Rock101

    The GOP thought that burdening the Clintons with legal fees in the millions would silence them. It had the opposite effect. The GOP chose this over good governance policy and rode to town on Bush's Back. The GOP chose poorly.

    June 9, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "Is it not alarming to anyone that our former president for two terms and potential president in the near future went into personal debt? You know, the people running our country?
    What is so alarming about someone taking out a home mortgage?"

    But Rudy, the fact that they even needed a mortgage in the first place is viewed by the RWNJs as evidence of their moral turpitude, unfitness for office and general lack of virtue and the absence of any worth to society. That's what he was really getting at. Wealth is not only a virtue in and of itself to them, but also evidence of the person's overall virtue.

    June 9, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    Wow. If these comments are the best that the GOPerville can come up with against Hillary Clinton ... oh yeah. GOPerville has a very big defeat coming on election day 2016.

    June 9, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  18. Elizabeth Warren

    Hillary Clinton is one of those dirty, money grubbing, evil 1%ers that has gotten where she is by trampling and stealing from the little people. She should be giving all that money back to charities. She has more than she needs so thew government should just confiscate it.

    June 9, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  19. TJeff1776

    LOL listen to all the weeping conservatives. They grab at lightening and embrace thunder for just anything AT ALL
    to get something on Hilliary and Obama. Desperate for just ANYTHING. Foaming at the mouth and out of their cotton-picking minds for the slightest micro. They are like circus clowns.

    June 9, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  20. 9hydra

    What? We're supposed to be mad that the president and first lady/senator/secretary of state/probably future president make money on speeches? I've never seen an article ever criticizing Condoleeza or any of the Bushes or Ted Kennedy or anyone for giving speeches after office. CEOs give speeches too and get paid. How is this even a thing???

    June 9, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
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