June 9th, 2014
08:41 AM ET
8 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. copperhead

    What is amazing is that there are people who want to hear her talk at all, let alone pay to hear her.

    June 9, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  2. tom l

    "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.

    June 9, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  3. tom l

    Bill from GA


    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.

    June 9, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  4. sly

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure Hillary Clinton is the only person in America profiting from capitalism.

    Thank god no atheletes make more than $100,000 a year. Or actors. Certainly no CEO's make more than $100,000 a year.

    Yup – she is the only celebrity or former President or famous person in the world making more than $100,000 a year. In fact, I don't think ANYONE in the world makes more than $100,000.

    So ... yup, let's abandon capitalism and replace it with communism. That will make the Republicans who criticize our American way of life very very happy!

    June 9, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  5. just asking

    didn't they spend millions on chelsea's wedding? i mean come on.... poor poor babies. i guess the taxes were/are eating them alive. or is everything being deducted as a business expense? hillary clinton inc.

    June 9, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  6. Brian

    Dont forget the NY estate she lived in to become senator after Bill left the WH was given to the Clintons by "friends".

    June 9, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. John

    Women will believe the book, youth will believe the book, minorities will believe the book, working poor/minimum wage earners will believe the book, anyone with a 401K will believe the book.........Older white southerners will not believe a word she says, top 3% won't believe it or like her.......and KKK members will hate her.......Let's just add these groups up .....just add these groups up to see who will win the next election.......

    June 9, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  8. Olympic Eagle

    Wait! Republicans are accusing Hillary of trying to make a living and greed? Did I miss something between last night and this morning?

    June 9, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  9. DaveinIL

    A politician is only about money and power whether their name is Bush, Clinton or Obama!

    June 9, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. MieinMT

    According to several organizations who follow individual net worth, the Clinton's combined wealth today ranges from $80M to $100M. If they were dead broke in 2001 when Bill left office, I'd like to know what they've been investing in to turn a $0 net worth into becoming 10th wealthiest president in history with his own personal net worth of $80M. I'd love to have some of that action.

    June 9, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  11. Bill from GA

    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? "

    Well, he wouldn't have lied to investigators if they hadn't asked him all those nasty questions about his SEXUAL HARASSMENT CHARGES!!

    How dare they? We knew he was a Sexual Predator when we elected him. No doubt, Hillary knew also ( she did read the papers, right?? ).

    So, just because Congress COULD impeach him, doesn't mean they had to. Did they expect Wild Bill to quit chasing women, just because he was President?? I mean, they guy's entitled to set his own priorities, right??

    And if 'ol Hil wants to put up with it, that's her right as his wife. 🙂

    June 9, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. thomas

    The BS just keeps rolling on doesn't....lol

    June 9, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. Kathy, AZ

    Sour grapes from the GOPers, who are jealous that they aren't as much in demand & able to make as much money as the Clintons. No one cares what they have to say.

    June 9, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. vidal808

    It is not that much the problem that they make so much money for public speaking – the problem is with the perception that speaking in itself is not very much worth. The dilemma is how to justify 5 mill $ for few speaking engagements versus 25 years of working in a factory trying to support a family. Sooner or later the unhappy factory workers get angry and revolt. Not a good thing for the 1 % – no matter where one is standing on the economic scale, a fairer distribution of wealth brings stability and more contentment. Everyone, rich and poor are in the same boot and perhaps the understanding that we all deserve a fair deal will ultimately be benefiting our society.

    June 9, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. bob smith

    right and sarah Palin was not paid a dime for talking.

    Every single politicain makes money at speaking events afterwards. except Car

    June 9, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. Cin99

    If she runs, she will WIN, plain and simple. Some of you are clearly forgetting the mending of fences throughout the world that Secretary of State had to do and did. The last administration left a disaster on many plains, both domestic and foreign. Short term memory loss here for sure. BTW; HRC has a 69% approval rating and leads polls on ALL potential candidates in 2016.

    June 9, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  17. Bill from GA

    tom l – ". What I do like about your comments are they are reasonable and fair even though you lean towards the democrats."

    Gee, thanks, tom l.
    let's get together for a beer one day, and we'll solve all the world's problems. 🙂

    June 9, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  18. ProudDem

    Why does she have to defend anything? Is this somehow new?

    June 9, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  19. Bill from GA

    John – " Women will believe the book, youth will believe the book,... "

    Hillary, palin, whatever. Gotta be pretty lame to even read their books. They're gonna say what they think will sell.

    June 9, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  20. Kelly

    This is why Iowa chose Obama AND Edwards over Clinton; she's a sellout to the banks. We didn't know about Obama until later.

    June 9, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. 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, I was making fun of Clinton for making $200K and saying "I never had any money until I got out of the White House".
    I believe she was speaking for herself, not her husband. Hillary wasn't pulling down that $200k/year. Her husband was. In fact, I do believe that she spent the White House years unemployed. It was not until she became a U.S. Senator that she had an income again, which was *after* she left the White House.

    June 9, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  22. Bill from GA

    MieinMT – " I'd love to have some of that action. "

    Please, don't use that phrase around Wild Bill. He's trying to move on. It's like pouring a drink in front of an alcoholic.

    June 9, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  23. ArchieDeBunker

    These people will stoop to ANYTHING! I wonder how many people know that they worked a crooked real estate deal to get the estate they are now living in – and that they are charging the U.S. Government (aka "taxpayers") $10,000 per month rent for the building that their 24-hour security guards (also at U.S. Taxpayers' expense) live in. I wonder how many people remember that Billary stole the dishes from the White House when they were kicked out.

    June 9, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  24. TheDuck

    Hillary Clinton has no freaking 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 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    tom l wrote:

    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.
    Isn't correct? It's not about being correct or not. It's about having common sense and accurate facts. It's about not living inside of bubble. It's about not painting people with broad brush strokes, which you just did once again. It's about actually understanding that people can have differing perspectives and opinions, so when one person says that does not mean that everyone else said it, too.

    June 9, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
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