Hillary, Bill Clinton Made Millions Off Of Paid Speaking Fees Last Year & That's Really Okay In The Grand Scheme Of Things
Americans really love their money — except, you know, when they don't. On Friday this week, The New York Times reported that Hillary and Bill Clinton had collected $30 million in speaking fees and book royalties since the beginning of 2014. In total, the power couple has now made over $125 million since leaving the White House in 2001. Of course, this has the majority of the right riled up beyond belief.
"'Dead broke' grandma and retired husband made $30 million since 2014 giving speeches and selling a book," wrote conservative social media aggregate site Twitchy, in response to the report that immediately went viral.
But Republicans aren't the only ones concerned about the Clintons' wealth — plenty of Democrats have taken issue with the numbers, which were pulled from financial forms filed with the Federal Election Commission this week.
Left-leaning news site Vox reported the staggering amounts of cash as a potentially detrimental political "gift" from parties who sought to influence Hillary Clinton in her current presidential run.
"True, Hillary Clinton wasn't a government official at the time the money was given," reported the site. "But it is very ... hard to see six-figure speaking fees paid by longtime political boosters with interests before the government — to a woman who has been running for president since the last time she lost — as anything but a gift."
On Friday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called the fees a "conflict of interest".
"The Clintons' claim that staggering amounts of income from paid speaking fees that raise ethical questions and potential conflicts of interest is simply to 'pay our bills' shows how out of touch they've truly become," said Priebus in a statement, referencing an earlier NBC interview with the former president in which he claimed that he had to give speeches to help "pay [the family's] bills". It's not illegal, of course. But the new report does throw some of the couples' hard efforts to appear "normal" down the drain.
For her part, in recent days Clinton has been attempting to seed favor with prospective voters by appealing to the "everyman". Her own campaign announcement video placed her side by side with working Americans and she made sure to hammer that point home by heading to an Iowa community college for her very first campaign stop last month. But the numbers don't lie — $30 million makes for one wide gap between Clinton and her voter base.
But is it really a problem? Maybe it's the little leftover Republican part of me that says so, but probably not — at least in the grand scheme of things. After all, while Clinton stands head and shoulders above her competition — according to some sources, prospective 2016 candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker brings in an annual salary of around $150,000, while candidate and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio raked in a total income of around $225,000 in 2011 — one look at previous waves of presidential bidders is more than enough to give the average voter a glimpse of just how wealthy the majority of today's political frontrunners really are.
In 2012, for example, presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney reported a previous year haul of around $21 million, most of which came from accrued capital gains and dividend payouts. At the time, the report on Romney's vast wealth was shocking, considering that his effective tax rate was only 15.4 percent — a stark contrast to the income tax rates of rival politicos like President Obama and former Rep. Newt Gingrich. Romney insisted that his lowered rate was justified.
"I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more," said Romney in a debate that year in Tampa, Florida. "I don't think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes."
Romney was also accused throughout his campaign of simply being out of touch because of his wealth — a similar burden of which Clinton also now stands accused. The son of wealthy corporate CEO, Romney gave away the majority of his inheritance to charity. "I figured we had enough of our own," Romney told C-SPAN in 2006. In an earlier 2012 debate, he maintained, "What I have I earned — I worked hard, the American way."
Clinton is not Romney. To be sure, their ideals are vastly different. But both Romney and the Clintons have dedicated themselves to their work in a way that might sincerely justify their financial gains over the past few years — one, a successful businessman, the other two a lawyer turned Secretary of State and a U.S. President. Surely, their efforts should have paid off.
According to Clinton's own paperwork, she and husband Bill command, on average, around $235,000 to $250,000 per speech. At their highest point, Bloomberg Politics reported that Bill had received somewhere near $500,000. The former White House inhabitants aren't alone in their wealth either: since leaving office in 2009, former President George W. Bush has raked in around $15 million on the speech circuit, reported Salon. Even public figures like Sarah Palin and Colin Powell can command around $100,000 to $200,000 per speech.
Politicking has always been a lucrative business, and when two of those heavyweights live under the same roof, there's no denying that they'll likely be rolling in cash in between their exhaustive schedule of campaign stops, speaking tours, and charity work.
The American public has always had a love-hate relationship with money in election years. It might just be all those years of conservative tutelage talking, but maybe Clinton's wealth isn't really the demon we're making it out to be.
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