How Bill, and now Hillary, Clinton talked their way from 'dead broke' to rich

Ex-US president has a lucrative career offering his insights and opinion to business and political leaders, but will it derail his wife's ambitions?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 11:21pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 12:54am

Over seven frenetic days, Bill Clinton addressed corporate executives in Switzerland and Denmark, an investors' group in Sweden and a cluster of business and political leaders in Austria.

The former US president wrapped up his European trip at Prague Castle, where he shared his thoughts on energy to a Czech business summit.

His pay: US$1.4 million.

That lucrative week in May 2012 offers a glimpse into how he has leveraged his global popularity into a personal fortune.

Starting just two weeks after exiting the Oval Office, Clinton has delivered hundreds of paid speeches, lifting a family that was "dead broke", as wife Hillary Rodham Clinton phrased it earlier this month, to a point of such extraordinary wealth that it is now seen as a potential political liability if she runs for president in 2016.

Bill Clinton has been paid US$104.9 million for 542 speeches around the world between January 2001, when he left the White House, and January last year, when Hillary stepped down as secretary of state, according to a review of the family's federal financial disclosures by
Washington Post.

Although slightly more than half of his appearances were in the US, the majority of his speaking income, US$56.3 million, came from foreign speeches, many of them in China, Japan, Canada and Britain.

The financial industry has been Clinton's most frequent sponsor. The
Post review showed that Wall Street banks and other financial services firms have hired Clinton for at least 102 appearances and paid him a total of US$19.6 million.

Since leaving the State Department, Hillary Rodham Clinton has followed her husband and a roster of recent presidents and secretaries of state in this profitable line of work, addressing dozens of industry groups, banks and other organisations.

Records of her earnings are not publicly available, but her standard fee is US$200,000 up.

The speaking itineraries could be a political challenge should Hillary run for president, giving opponents an opening to attack the Clintons for being beholden to powerful interests. Some companies that have paid Bill Clinton for speeches have faced scrutiny from federal regulators.

Spokesmen for the Clintons declined to comment.

Clinton's income from speaking, unlike that of other former presidents, is detailed in annual public disclosures because his wife has held public office.

Both Clintons also give speeches for free. The Clintons also sometimes request that sponsors pay their fee as a donation to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family's non-profit group that leads global philanthropic initiatives.