Clinton changed the rules of political speech-making for cash. He would push not just corporate hosts but also nonprofits and universities to pay fees well beyond what they were accustomed to. His aides would turn what had been a freewheeling format into tightly scripted events where every question from the audience was screened. He and Hillary Clinton would become so skilled at churning profits out of their lectures that they would net more than $150 million from speaking alone after he left the White House....
Speechmaking is as politically charged as it is lucrative for the Clintons. Hillary Clinton’s refusal to disclose transcripts from speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs and other large corporations has become a campaign liability. Her husband’s collection of fees from corporations of as much as $750,000 for a single speech is a source of relentless charges of conflict of interest from critics.
By his advisors’ own admission, the former president pushed the limits of what could be charged for speeches when he entered the market in 2001.
Hillary Clinton would later say her family at that time was “dead broke” and deep in debt after years of attorneys’ fees related to impeachment and other Clinton controversies. The going rate for former presidents to deliver remarks in a public venue had been in the range of $60,000 per speech.
Event organizers in California were taken aback when Bill Clinton, freshly signed by the Harry Walker Agency, demanded double that amount. They assumed he would ultimately take the $60,000 they had paid to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Jimmy Carter....
Clinton would demand in his contract to be shuttled by private jet from San Francisco to UC Davis, where he spoke at the Mondavi Center. The center had to appeal to its network of donors to find someone able to fly him the 70 miles, something it had never done and hasn’t since. “That is the one and only time,” said Jeremy Ganter, director of programming at the Mondavi Center.
The center also found itself, along with the other event hosts on that Clinton swing, in the awkward position of having to pay some oddly large expenses.
Fearful that their costs would get out of hand, the event organizers worked with the Fairmont to discreetly view the charges being rung up by Clinton and his entourage on each of the five days they stayed there. Assurances from the Harry Walker Agency that they were “reasonable expenses for a president traveling on the road for week” and that “we have never had a client complain” provided little comfort to the event hosts.
They ultimately got socked with the $1,400 hotel phone bill and $700 dinner for two.