NYT: Chelsea Clinton gets $75K per speech

One thing has become clear from Hillary Clinton’s book tour: all the struggles by the Clintons to provide multiple homes and working-class world-class education for their daughter have certainly paid off. The New York Times reports that the occasional reporter for NBC now commands a speaking fee of $75,000 an appearance, but hastens to add that the money gets donated to her parents’ foundation (via Joe Schoffstall):

There is a new Clinton paid to deliver speeches — Chelsea, the former first daughter — and she is commanding as much as $75,000 per appearance.

Aides stressed that while Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton often address trade groups and Wall Street bankers, Ms. Clinton, now 34, focuses on organizations whose goals are in line with the work of the family’s philanthropic organization, the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Organizers said her star power helped sell tickets and raise money.

And unlike her parents’ talks, Ms. Clinton’s speeches “are on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, and 100 percent of the fees are remitted directly to the foundation,” said her spokesman, Kamyl Bazbaz, adding that “the majority of Chelsea’s speeches are unpaid.” The Harry Walker Agency, the firm that represents her parents’ engagements, handles Ms. Clinton’s talks on behalf of the family foundation.

The family speechmaking business is a lucrative one and has generated more than $100 million for her parents over the past decade as they hopscotched the globe. Their fees range from $200,000 to $700,000 per appearance, and Mr. Clinton alone earned $17 million last year giving speeches.

It’s fair to note that the speaking circuit is a free-market system. Anyone who can get $75K for an hour of speaking and Q&A should only decline if someone else is offering more. That applies to Hillary and Bill Clinton as well. While collecting massive amounts of money for speaking fees isn’t the equivalent of working in the coal mines (or “struggling” in any sense), it’s still a legitimate income stream. Lots of politicos make money in that industry.

However, that’s where the eyebrows start going up. The NYT does a little comparison shopping, and finds a curious market tilt:

The cost to book Ms. Clinton surpasses that of speakers with longer résumés, like Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and a potential Republican rival to Mrs. Clinton in 2016. He makes an estimated $50,000 per speech. Colin L. Powell and Madeleine K. Albright, both former secretaries of state, are also in the $50,000 range, said one person who has booked speakers but who could not discuss private contracts for attribution.

Whether or not one likes their politics, these three all have something in common: actual accomplishment and experience. Powell and Albright preceded Hillary as Secretaries of State, and Bush ran Florida as Governor for two terms. What exactly has Chelsea done to be fascinating enough to earn 50% more than either as a public speaker? Even her scant contributions at NBC News shows very little reason to believe that she’s a particularly charismatic raconteur. Those efforts got her a $600,000-a-year contract that lasted until recently, when NBC converted her contract to month-to-month.

There are a couple of explanations for this. One, it may just be that celebrity sells, but that would tend to explain the fees for Bill and Hillary more than Chelsea, who spent most of her adult life shunning the media. The combination of ridiculously high speaking fees and the inexplicable NBC News contract seems much more like an avenue for the elite to pay homage to Bill and Hillary, and for the wanna-bes and the already-powerful suck up to the elite in and around political power. There’s nothing illegal or even unethical in a formal sense about this, and Chelsea’s not the first presidential progeny to benefit from the impulse, but the gaudy levels of recompense for the amount of effort and experience just make it a lot more obvious than it otherwise would be.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022