Since leaving the White House, former President Bill Clinton has earned more than $16 million in honoraria from foreign interests, raking in money that could later be used to help finance the expected presidential campaign of his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.).
Included among the former President’s honoraria was a $300,000 payment for appearing at an Australian conference that was condemned by a prominent Chinese dissident as a propaganda bonanza for the People’s Republic of China.
When I asked Sen. Clinton last week if she had decided whether or not she would use any personal money for her campaign, she said, “Oh, I have no idea.”
The senator’s 2004 Senate financial disclosure report, the latest available, revealed that she and her husband had a joint Citibank Deposit Account that was worth between $5 million and $25 million and which produced between $50,001 and $100,000 in interest. In addition, the disclosure indicated that she shared a Senate Qualified Blind Trust with her husband that was also worth between $5 million and $25 million, and which earned between $100,000 and $1 million interest.
According to campaign finance expert Cleta Mitchell, a partner in the Foley & Lardner law firm, Mrs. Clinton would be entitled to at least half of the funds in joint accounts with her husband, even though New York is not a community property state. “They now treat that [joint investment accounts] as joint property and the FEC would contend that 50% is hers,” said Mitchell.
An FEC spokesman refused to speculate on whether Clinton could liquidate jointly held assets to finance her campaign because the FEC had not issued a formal decision on the matter, but did readily point out that Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) legally borrowed against his wife Teresa Heinz’s assets to help finance his 2004 presidential campaign. Similarly, Mrs. Clinton could borrow against the wealth her husband has accumulated in part through his honoraria to help finance her campaigns.
Former President Ronald Reagan was fiercely criticized in October 1989 when Japanese business giant Fujisankei Communications Group reportedly paid him $2 million for a nine-day visit during which Reagan gave two speeches. Former President Clinton was paid nearly $22 million from 2001 to 2004 for 151 appearances, for which he usually charged a fee of at least $125,000. His highest fee was $400,000. An analysis of Sen. Clinton’s financial disclosures shows that foreign-based groups paid the former President $16.04 million for 89 appearances.
Of Reagan’s visit to Japan, the New York Times editorialized: “[T]he Reagans’ willing participation is as disturbing as their extraordinary compensation. Former Presidents haven’t always comported themselves with dignity after leaving the Oval Office. But none have plunged so blatantly into pure commercialism.” Among the foreign-based groups that paid honoraria to former President Clinton were:
- The Australian Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China: Chinese political dissident Wei Jingheng publicly criticized Clinton when he was hired by the Australian Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China to speak at their conference in Sydney, Australia, in 2002. Jinigsheng said the conference was “a method from the Chinese government of promoting so-called nationalism and as past President of America he should not be participating.” President George W. Bush visited Taiwan that same week and issued a pledge to “help Taiwan defend herself if provoked” by the PRC. Clinton was paid $300,000 for this participation in this conference.
- The Dabbagh Group: The Dabbagh Group is a Saudi financial services, agricultural products, energy services and real estate conglomerate founded in 1962 by Sheikh Abdullah Dabbagh, a former Saudi Arabian minister for agriculture. It was led by the sheikh’s son, Amr Dabbagh, from 1991 until he was appointed by King Fahd in 2004 to become chairman of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority. The Dabbagh Group paid Clinton $475,000 for two speeches in 2002, one of which was for Dabbagh’s charitable foundation STARS.
- Marskon Sparks: Markson Sparks is the Australian public relations firm headed by celebrity agent Max Markson who hired Clinton to appear at seven charitable fundraisers, four of which were for children’s hospitals, for fees that started at $125,000 per appearance. Patrons could buy a ticket for $1,100 to Clinton’s children’s hospital fundraiser in Brisbane, or pay $110,000 to gain access to a VIP cocktail party. Markson said he hoped to raise $500,000 from that event for the charity. The company is a major supporter of the Australian Labor Party and makes no secret of raising money for the party. Clinton was paid $925,000 for seven appearances in 2001 and 2002.
- CLSA Ltd.: CLSA is a brokerage, investment and banking group headquartered in Hong Kong but owned by the French-based Credit Agricole. Clinton spoke at two of their events to urge investors and other corporate executives to practice “responsible investing.” At one event at which he was billed with liberal rock-star-activist Bono, Clinton said, “Every person in every corner of the world has a vested interest in solving global problems” and asked leaders to use their power to work for the interests of the poor. Clinton was paid $500,000 for two appearances in 2001 and 2002.
(For a full listing of foreign-related interest paying Bill honoraria, click here.)
According to Sen. Clinton’s financial disclosure forms, the former President was also paid $200,000 for appearing in Shenzhen, PRC, in 2002 on behalf of the JingJi Real Estate Development Group.