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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora