This is a story which I’ll confess I was hesitant to pick up today (more on that below) but the sheer audacity of the numbers involved makes it rather hard to ignore. The Washington Post notes this morning that one prominent university was looking to book a high profile speaker on women’s issues recently and the short list for their selection was very short indeed. Unfortunately, their first choice came with a few hefty strings attached so they went with a backup plan.
When the University of Missouri at Kansas City was looking for a celebrity speaker to headline its gala luncheon marking the opening of a women’s hall of fame, one name came to mind: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But when the former secretary of state’s representatives quoted a fee of $275,000, officials at the public university balked. “Yikes!” one e-mailed another.
So the school turned to the next best option: her daughter, Chelsea.
The university paid $65,000 for Chelsea Clinton’s brief appearance Feb. 24, 2014, a demonstration of the celebrity appeal and marketability that the former and possibly second-time first daughter employs on behalf of her mother’s presidential campaign and family’s global charitable empire.
I was originally alerted to this when I saw Jim Geraghty tweeting about it. I would normally pass on anything involving the former First Daughter, but Jim’s spin on it caught my attention.
— jimgeraghty (@jimgeraghty) June 30, 2015
Talk about privilege! Jim went on over at National Review to break down exactly what that fee she collected comes out to and how much it “benefited” the university to have her attend the event.
The article notes the negotiated schedule included Chelsea speaking for 10 minutes, participate in a 20-minute, moderated question-and-answer session and spend a half-hour posing for pictures with VIPs offstage. A $65,000 fee divided by 60 minutes of time at the event comes out to $1,083.33 per minute.
The university paid the fee to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The school made $38,500 in ticket sales for the event.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system I’ll return for a moment to why this story still carries a relatively high “ick factor” for me in terms of political coverage. First of all, the children and other relatives of elected officials and candidates are not very compelling subjects unless they are actively inserting themselves into our game. (Alright… Billy Carter was an exception, but the guy was hilarious.) That rule of thumb includes Chelsea Clinton. As a child she was kept pretty much out of the media eye and even as an adult her activities haven’t been all that overtly political except when she hits the trail occasionally in support of her mom. So unless and until she either runs for office or is definitively indicated as being directly and personally involved in some corruption on the part of the family foundation, she’s just not that interesting to me.
Also, since we’re talking about speaking fees here, the raging capitalist in my soul is somewhat loathe to cast stones here. Merit aside, (or a huge lack thereof) the woman is entitled to earn a living. Just like her mother and father, (when not in campaign mode) if you can find somebody willing to pay you to show up and talk you should pocket the money and pay your taxes on it. This is America, after all. Go grab the biggest piece of the pie which you legally can.
But in the context of everything else that’s been happening and her mother’s recent interest is social justice and clamping down on “white privilege” in our society, this is all a bit much to swallow. Is there a better definition of white privilege than Chelsea? I mean, seriously now… if you take away the government connections, is she really all that different from Paris Hilton? What precisely has this “woman of accomplishment” actually, er… accomplished in her life? As near as I can tell it consists of living in the White House by virtue of nothing more than the biological lottery, going to the best schools on the dime of her parents and the pull of her surname, getting jobs which were in line with how she got into school and then going into the rather dubious family charity business. What has she ever actually done which could possibly lend the sort of depth which would result in her having anything to say which could conceivably be worthy paying one thousand dollars a minute to hear?
I still don’t begrudge her the money, but anyone considering attending the universities which might pay these fees to have her speak may want to think twice. That’s not a very wise investment of their resources if you ask me. And if any of the Clintons want to talk about white privilege between now and next November, they should probably keep Chelsea off the stage.