In a front-page article in the Friday edition of the Washington Post. we learn that Bill Clinton apparently has a large speaking fee. I assumed that Clinton didn’t exactly give speeches for cheap, being an ex-president and all, so this is hardly a revelation. I guess I can understand why the paper looked into this to see if something scandalous turned up, but it doesn’t always follow that all of your research needs to go into the paper when there’s really no story.
After a long list of places Clinton has spoken and the fees he’s raked in, we get the insinuation of shady dealing we’ve been waiting for at the end of the article:
Clinton receives thousands of speaking requests a year and accepts a few hundred. Despite the extensive vetting, at least two companies that booked him were under federal investigation.
In February 2005, Clinton traveled to the Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas and collected $150,000 from Swiss biotechnology giant Serono International for a speech that touched on global AIDS. Serono’s U.S. arm was then embroiled in a well-publicized federal investigation into giveaways to doctors who unnecessarily prescribed its AIDS drug. A few months after the speech, the company pleaded guilty to two federal conspiracy charges and agreed to pay $704 million in fines.
Clinton also accepted $125,000 in December 2001 to address workers at International Profit Associates, an Illinois company that advises small businesses. At the time, IPA was the focus of a federal investigation — started during the Clinton administration — and a government lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment.
Like many who have paid the former president to give a speech, IPA executives have been helpful to his wife’s campaigns in New York. Her campaign and political action committee have collected nearly $150,000 in donations from the company’s officials, making IPA one of her largest single sources of campaign contributions since she ran for the Senate in 2000. The company also flew her aboard its corporate jet, according to a 2004 reimbursement item on her campaign finance report.
Asked about the IPA and Serono speeches, [spokesman Jay] Carson said: “We take our vetting process very seriously. We do our best to try to catch any issues. And given the volume of that, we are not always perfect.”
So Bill Clinton has spoken to a few companies that had some legal problems. And Hillary Clinton received a few contributions from companies her husband has given speeches for. That’s all they’ve got.
This seems to be part of the Post’s ongoing series: Casting Aspersions on the Wealth of Democratic Presidential Candidates. We all remember the first installment on John Edwards. I wonder what sort of a hit piece John Solomon has lined up about Obama?
To be fair, the second paragraph of the article notes that most of Clinton’s speeches aren’t for his own income but rather for no fee or for the Clinton Foundation. Still, I think the dominant impression the article leaves is that the Clintons are somehow tainted by all this money being thrown around. It points to the fact that they were heavily in debt from Bill’s legal bills when he left office in 2001, with the implication being that Hillary might somehow be beholden to the financial interests that got them out of the hole and that have now made her and her husband rich.
You could raise suspicions by listing the campaign contributions of any politician in Washington though. Lacking a story beyond that, I don’t see why this makes it on A1 other than to make the Clintons look bad.
UPDATE: Here’s Marty Peretz using the article as an outlet for his Clinton hatred.
The fact is that the Clintons are all about money. There’s a truly shocking story in this morning’s Washington Post about how Bill earned $40 million in the last four years just in speaking fees. A lot of this was Arab money, which doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his rich Jews (he must) … or Israel, for that matter. It tells you just how easy it is for him to fake his affections. Or to carry two loves in his breast at the same time.
By the way, Peretz sold TNR Friday, though he will (unfortunately) remain editor-in-chief.