News / USA

As Hillary Clinton Soars, Questions Shadow Speaking Tour

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton speaks to a group of supporters and University of Miami students at UM in Coral Gables, Fla., Feb. 26, 2014
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton speaks to a group of supporters and University of Miami students at UM in Coral Gables, Fla., Feb. 26, 2014
Reuters
Hillary Clinton has not announced whether she's running for president in 2016. But when she and the road show that inevitably follows her arrived at the University of Miami, an official declaration seemed a mere formality.

In a scene with all the makings of a campaign appearance, a line of Miami students waiting to get into Clinton's speech snaked around the university's arena hours before her arrival on Wednesday. When she arrived, it was with the heavy protection she retains as a former secretary of state and the wife of a former president, Bill Clinton.

Outside the arena, Ready for Hillary, an independent pro-Clinton group that has recruited veterans of President Barack Obama's campaigns, was signing up supporters. By the time Clinton's speech began, there were "Ready For Hillary" signs and stickers throughout the crowd of an estimated 6,000 — including at least 3,200 students.

Clinton's remarks were not surprising — a call for students to get involved in their communities, and support for Obama's healthcare overhaul, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's veto of anti-gay legislation, democracy in Venezuela and the continued removal of chemical weapons from Syria.

As usual, she was coy about the prospect of a bid to become the first woman to be U.S. president. When asked about the letters "TBD" in her biography on Twitter, Clinton, 66, said with a smile, "I'll certainly ponder that."

Clinton's speech represented the public face of a lucrative nationwide speaking tour that has kept her in the spotlight as the widely presumed, albeit undeclared, front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

But the tour also is raising concerns among Democrats and others over a range of issues, from the political implications of Democrats rallying around Clinton so long before the 2016 election to the way her team has stage-managed what some see as a nationwide dash for cash in speaking fees.

Some Democrats are wary of criticizing Clinton publicly, but privately worry that scenes such as the one in Coral Gables could wind up hurting the party in 2016 if they portray Clinton as an entitled prospect who does not have to fight for the party's nomination. Such a sentiment is widely believed to have damaged Clinton in 2008, when she lost the party's nomination to Obama despite entering the race as the favorite.

Early polls indicate that Clinton easily would be the favorite to win the 2016 nomination if she chose to run. But in recent weeks there have been signs of frustration within the party over what some call the "inevitability" of her nomination.

Vice President Joe Biden, who has said he is considering a run for the White House, seemed to reflect the thinking of the tap-the-brakes-on-Clinton crowd this week when he told Politico that 2016 is "lifetimes away" and that he is "as qualified as anybody" to be president.

There also are complaints about private speeches Clinton has given to various groups.

Clinton's staff and her representatives will not comment on her fees, but several booking agents who have worked with political figures estimate that her per-speech fee for private groups could range up to $250,000.

Her paid appearances have included talks with investors at high-profile Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs and Carlyle Group, leading some liberal groups that typically support Democrats to wonder whether Clinton might be too cozy with Wall Street for their taste.

"It's a big red flag," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which advocates tighter financial regulation.

"If she outwardly campaigns as a corporate Democrat, it wouldn't be a conflict of interest — it would just be a conflict with where the center of gravity in America is," Green said.

'Heavily discounted' fee

Clinton's staff will not say how she chooses her audiences or how much she could make from the dozens of speeches on her tour this year.

Harry Walker Agency, the firm that books her speeches and also represents political luminaries such as Bill Clinton and former vice presidents Dick Cheney and Al Gore, did not respond to requests for comment.

For her speech at the University of Miami, Clinton was paid a "heavily discounted" fee that was covered by a donor and not the university, said Donna Shalala, the university's president.

Shalala, who was secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department under Bill Clinton and is a longtime ally of the Clintons, would not identify the donor or disclose the fee.

The Miami speech was typical of those Hillary Clinton has given to voting groups that are Democrats' target in get-out-the-vote campaigns — young voters, African Americans and women. It appears that Clinton typically charges a modest fee, or no fee, for such speeches.

But most of the speeches Clinton has given lately have been more private affairs, in which ticket-buyers pay a considerable price to see her. Clinton's staff often demands that her speeches be closed to media or "off the record" — even when the speeches take place at conferences where other events are open to reporters.

Hours before she spoke in Coral Gables, Clinton gave a talk at a healthcare technology conference in Orlando. Reporters asking about that event were told they could gain access by buying a ticket for $475.

'She's a phenomenon'

It is not unusual for former politicians and public officials to enjoy lucrative speaking careers once they have left office.

Since leaving the presidency in 2001, Bill Clinton has been paid more than $90 million in speaking fees, including $13.4 million in 2011, according to tabulations by CNN and financial disclosures by Hillary Clinton when she was a U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state.

As was the case last year when a group in Israel paid him $500,000 for a 45-minute speech commemorating Israeli President Shimon Peres' 90th birthday, Bill Clinton has donated some of his fees to his family's charitable foundation.

But because of the possibility that Hillary Clinton still may seek the nation's highest office, her collecting huge speaking fees is seen a bit differently by some in Washington.

Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf acknowledges that in Washington's heated partisan environment, some insiders in both parties "are going to complain about anything that Secretary Clinton does, and her supporters are going to say everything she does is great."

But, Sheinkopf said, "This country has a history of putting rich people into public office. If they're jealous of the amount of money she's making for speeches, they should become the former first lady and a former senator and a former secretary of state, and see what happens."

Clinton has said that she will not decide whether to run for president before the end of this year. Until then, she will continue the speaking tour and promote a new memoir that focuses on her time as a diplomat.

Clinton has said that an assault by militants on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans in 2012 was her greatest regret as secretary of state, and Republicans continue to try to use the episode to portray her as incompetent on foreign policy.

The summer release of her book will give her opportunities to talk about her time as secretary of state in carefully staged appearances, while continuing to give lucrative speeches.

Some of her supporters play down the notion that she could face a backlash from her speaking tour.

"A huge part of politics is staying in touch and being engaged and involved," said former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat who says he would welcome a Clinton presidential bid.

"She's a phenomenon, and seems to be becoming more so."

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs