Hillary Clinton defends paid speeches

Hillary Clinton defends paid speeches
State Department CNN

POSTED: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 1:33pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 8:56am

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the fact she's reportedly made $5 million in speaking fees since leaving the State Department in early 2013 by arguing that her family "came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt."

Clinton, pressed by ABC's Diane Sawyer in a clip of a larger interview that will air Monday night, added that her family had "no money" when they left the White House and "struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education."

"You know, it was not easy," she said in the excerpt, which aired Monday morning on "Good Morning America."

Clinton has become a staple on the paid speaking circuit. She has appeared before a wide array of audiences, including trade associations, business groups and college students. Although she regularly speaks for free at certain events, Mother Jones reported earlier this year that Clinton made roughly $5 million dollars on the speaking circuit since stepping down as America's top diplomat.

Clinton did not dispute the $5 million figure when Sawyer asked about it.

On the speaking circuit, organizers for different events argue that paying Clinton the high fee is worthwhile because of the attention and audiences she can command.

Hillary Clinton isn't the only member of her family cashing in on the speaking circuit, either. A CNN analysis of the family's financial records in early 2013 showed that former President Bill Clinton had earned $106 million from paid speeches since leaving the White House in January 2001. In 2012 alone, Bill Clinton earned $17 million in fees.

"Bill has worked really hard and it has been amazing to me. He has worked very hard," Clinton said. "First of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which you had to make double the money because of obviously taxes and then pay off the debts and get us houses and take care of family members."

Bill Clinton was an elected official on a fixed government salary for all but two years from 1977, when he took office as the Arkansas attorney general, until leaving the White House in January 2001. Hillary Clinton spent some time, though, as a lawyer in Little Rock, Arkansas.

"I never had any money until I got out of the White House, you know, but I've done reasonably well since then," said Clinton of his earning power at a 2010 forum in Cape Town, South Africa.

As President, Clinton made $200,000 a year plus $50,000 in a tax free, yearly expense account, according to the U.S. Code for Compensation of the President. The president's yearly salary was doubled to $400,000 after Clinton left the White House.

Though not as profitable as Bill Clinton - who has made as much as $750,000 in one speech - Hillary Clinton reportedly commands $200,000 per speech.

Asked if she thought Americans could understand making "five times the median income in this country for one speech," Clinton said she "thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do."

American Rising, the pro-Republican opposition research shop that along with the Republican National Committee, takes the lead in criticizing Clinton, was quick to ping her over her comments aired Monday morning by ABC, saying they "reveal someone who is extremely out-of-touch with financial reality facing Americans."

On their website, America Rising said that the two homes the Clintons purchased after leaving the White House (Chappaqua, New York and Washington DC) combined cost around $4.5 million.

The Clintons departed the White House in debt, thanks to enormous legal fees. By the end of 2000, the Clintons carried debt totaling somewhere between $2.28 million to $10.6 million.

But their assets soon grew

Bill Clinton made more than $9.2 million in speaking feeds in 2001 and more than $9.5 million in 2002.

The Clintons paid off their legal fees by 2004.

CNN Political Research Director Robert Yoon contributed to this report.

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By CNN's Dan Merica

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They brought it upon themselves if they are broke, but we all know better than that.

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