By their own estimation, Bill and Hillary Clinton have made over $150 million off speaking engagements since Bill left the White House in 2001. Over the last decade, their six-figure fees—and the attendant contractual demands—have become standard, but a new story in the Los Angeles Times reveals some of the extraordinary measures organizations were required to go to in order to book, and satisfy, Bill and his team.
In preparation for a general election fight against Hillary, the Republican National Committee filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the Clintons’ speaking engagements. The Times got their hands on correspondence revolving around a series of speeches Bill gave in the Bay Area in 2001, and they reveal by any objective judgement an abject wastefulness.
For instance, a stipulation of Clinton’s contract required that he be flown by private jet from San Francisco to UC Davis, a trip of only 70 miles. Per the Times, the college had to scramble to find a donor who could provide a plane for that trip, which had never been made by flight by one of the school’s other paid speakers.
Other correspondence shows that Clinton abused expenses allowed to him by event organizers. While staying at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Clinton rang up a $1,400 telephone bill and a $700 dinner apparently attended by only one other person. The following email shows a back-and-forth between organizers and Clinton reps regarding the spending:
Contrary to the wild and open spending, Clinton instituted what organizers say was an abnormal process of vetting questions that audience members would be permitted to ask Clinton at his appearances. Via the Times:
The fee hardly entitled audiences to a candid interaction with the former president. The contract with the two events at a speaker series affiliated with Foothill-Deanza Community College District demanded all questions receive approval from Clinton’s staff.
“We wish we never had to give in to that,” said Richard Henning, who runs the series, which has hosted all but one former president since Gerald Ford. “He is the only person I can think of that required it. It has never happened before or since.”
One organizer called the questions “terrible, and terribly general,”and said he would be “almost embarrassed to ask them”:
Here is a sampling of some of the approved questions:
The organizer further opined that his audience would be “very disappointed” by the questions, though we of course don’t know if that’s true, nor does it really matter. But the documents show the germination of an extreme and suspicious secrecy—specifically as it pertains to Hillary’s infamous speeches at Goldman Sachs—that the 2016 Clinton campaign has been unable to shake.
For the sake of comparison, here is the standard contract for a Hillary Clinton speech, as sent to a prospective booker in 2013. (The contract was part of a series of document dumps stemming from a hack of the Democratic National Committee.) Though there is no indication that any of the following requirements are unusual for a speaker as high-profile as Clinton, you can see how the purposefully broad language might lead to abuse.