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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs