It’s no secret that Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and first lady, has made millions upon millions of dollars giving speeches around the world. And, yes, Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have given much of their money to their foundation enterprise, which has done good global work.
But the fact that Democrats seem united behind Hillary Clinton as their 2016 nominee is not going to give her a pass on her latest financial disclosure statement, which shows her collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies and groups promoting congressional action on global trade agreements. The former secretary supported such agreements as secretary of state.
Clinton has not had much to say about trade lately, reports the McClatchy Washington Bureau, and that may be because many Democrats in Congress oppose fast-track trade legislation that would open up trade with 11 Asian and Pacific Rim countries. They say such deals would mean the loss of American jobs.
But Clinton clearly has plenty to say that’s of interest to the pro-trade deal companies and groups that paid $2 million for Clinton speeches between January 2014 and March. For example, eBay Inc., member of a coalition pushing the trade bills, paid $315,000 for a Clinton speech March 11. General Electric paid $220,500 for an appearance. Cisco Systems Inc. and Qualcomm Corp. each paid $325,000 for separate Clinton appearances last year.
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And then there is this: The Clintons on Thursday reported another $26 million in fees for speeches from corporations, universities, foreign sources and others. The speeches were made by the former president, his wife and daughter, Chelsea.
Hillary Clinton made a point of once saying she and her husband were broke when they left the White House. And it’s true the Clintons came to power without personal wealth.
But they have made up for lost time, marketing their star power and building a personal fortune in at least the tens of millions of dollars.
There’s nothing unusual about former presidents making money on a fairly exclusive line on their resumes. But the Clintons have taken it to a whole new level, and their speaking fees to various groups, along with their acceptance of millions of dollars from foreign and domestic donors for their foundation, have rightly been called into question. Much of the information is open, true enough, and that’s important.
But Hillary Clinton owes the public a more fulsome explanation of her acceptance of huge fees and those foundation donations than she has given. And though President Clinton remains one of the most popular and successful presidents of modern times, Hillary Clinton expects too much if she believes she’s entitled to the presidential nomination of Democrats and to the presidency itself without having to face intense scrutiny of her finances.
She has been in politics long enough to know that corporations are not by nature entirely altruistic enterprises. Those that pay the huge fees surely see those payments at the least as an investment in access. They are getting Hillary Clinton, a possible future president, in their midst with their executives, an audience with power, so to speak. They know it, and Hillary Clinton knows it.
The Clintons are not naive, and neither are the American people. President Clinton and Hillary Clinton have long portrayed themselves as advocates for the middle class and the disadvantaged, and the former president has been involved in charitable efforts after natural disasters that were important to recovery. Both the Clintons have done good work for their country and the world.
But anyone who wants to be president must understand that the No. 1 obligation of that office is to serve the American people first and last. And that’s all the people, not just the ones with $300,000 or so to pay for a speech. There just seems to be a disconnect at this point, almost an arrogance, to the way the former secretary of state views criticism of her marketing of her career and her connections, and the star power granted her by the people, to companies and groups willing to pay up to be in her presence. That will have to change if Hillary Clinton wants to successfully market herself as a future president.