Putting Bill Clinton’s Speaking Fees Into Perspective

Bill Clinton’s six-figure speaking fees—and who paid them—are the subject of a new book.
Photograph By: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

When it comes to getting paid to make speeches, no one can compete with Bill Clinton, and that might be a problem for Hillary Clinton.

As the former secretary of state continues her presidential campaign, more attention is being paid to the hundreds of speeches her husband has given since he left the White House, and who wrote the checks paying for them. A new book, Clinton Cash, alleges that some of the groups that paid Clinton (and donated to the Clinton Foundation) received special favors from the Clinton State Department. The Washington Examiner raised similar questions about the former president’s 2009-2013 speeches in a report last summer.

So how normal are the former president's speaking gigs? 

Timing is everything

An analysis of Clinton financial disclosures by the Washington Post found that Bill Clinton made $104.9 million in speaking fees between January 2001 and January 2013—in other words, from when he left the White House to when Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state. He gave 542 speeches and was paid an average of $200,000 a speech, though he received over $700,000 or more for three speeches given in 2011 and 2012.

During Hillary Clinton’s four years at the State Department, her husband was paid $47.7 million in speaking fees. As critics have noted, most of his highest paid speeches were given abroad between 2009 and 2013.

Clinton brand

While cashing in after leaving the public sector is normal, most politicians can only dream of commanding the type of payouts Clinton has received. After leaving office in 2007, President Bush has earned $15 million for 140 speeches between January 2009 and May 2011, and was paid an average of $100,000 to $150,000 a speech (at the time a Jeb Bush cost around $10,000 to $15,000. Financial sector draws like former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, Moneyball author Michael Lewis, and Malcolm Gladwell rake in $200,000, $100,000, and $80,000 a speech, respectively.

During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney raised some eyebrows when he said the $374,000 he made in speaking fees in 2010 was “not very much.” Compared to Bill Clinton, he had a point.

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