An education: Bill Clinton's $18M cash-in started with a State Department dinner invitation

How did the Clintons earn $57.5 million during the four years that Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State? Higher education, folks, higher education — specifically, for-profit higher education that turned out very profitable for Bill Clinton. For the price of an invitation to am official State Department dinner in 2009, Bill landed a contract to serve as “honorary chancellor” to Laureate International Universities, and received almost $18 million from 2010 to 2015, as the Washington Post reports this morning:

In addition to recommending invitations for leaders from a community college and a church-funded institution, Clinton wanted a representative from a for-profit college company called Laureate International Universities, which, she explained in an email to her chief of staff that was released last year, was “the fastest growing college network in the world.”

There was another reason Clinton favored setting a seat aside for Laureate at the August 2009 event: The company was started by a businessman, Doug Becker, “who Bill likes a lot,” the secretary wrote, referring to her husband, the former president.

Nine months later, Laureate signed Bill Clinton to a lucrative deal as a consultant and “honorary chancellor,” paying him $17.6 million over five years until the contract ended in 2015 as Hillary Clinton launched her campaign for president.

There is no evidence that Laureate received special favors from the State Department in direct exchange for hiring Bill Clinton, but the Baltimore-based company had much to gain from an association with a globally connected ex-president and, indirectly, the United States’ chief diplomat. Being included at the 2009 dinner, shoulder to shoulder with leaders from internationally renowned universities for a discussion about the role of higher education in global diplomacy, provided an added level of credibility for the business as it pursued an aggressive expansion strategy overseas, occasionally tangling with foreign regulators.

We’ve noted the slimy connections between Laureate and the Clintons on several occasions, but the media hasn’t taken much of an interest — at least up to now. There may be no evidence of special favors, but the circumstances speak for themselves. Douglas Becker may have “liked Bill a lot,” but he didn’t hire Bill until Bill started getting him into fancy State Department dinners. Just how much support did the State Department give Becker during those episodes with foreign regulators?

Becker told people that Bill Clinton’s association with Laureate was an indication of their credibility. In 2011, Becker introduced Clinton at a Laureate campus event in Malaysia by claiming that “there must be something very special about Laureate that has inspired President Clinton to devote his energy to such an endeavor.” Other than the $18 million he got paid, it’s difficult to see what that might be. And, as Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Rosalind Helderman point out, Clinton took millions from other clients also “run by longtime Democratic donors.” Interestingly, his consulting work took off in 2009, not coincidentally at the same time that Hillary was running the State Department, and very much not coincidental to his new clients’ focus on international business.

Rather than look at it from the “no evidence yet” perspective, ask this question instead. What value did Bill Clinton bring a for-profit college operating almost entirely abroad that was worth $18 million over five years? For-profits don’t need fundraisers to survive, and Bill Clinton’s “honorary chancellor” indicates that he did nothing significant in terms of executive administration. Bill traded on his connections to power to stuff his pockets full of cash, and by marital connection stuff Hillary’s pockets full of cash at the same time.

Finally, let’s recall that Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats (including Hillary) spent the last eight years attacking for-profit universities in the US for their supposed high tuitions and big executive payoffs. Isn’t it ironic that Democrats have nominated two people who got rich off of that same business plan when run by Democrats in nations much poorer than ours?