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Bill vs. Barack

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I just heard Stephen A. Smith on ESPN [2] talking about the revelation that the Clintons had income of $109 million between 2000 and 2006 and that much of it came from Bill’s speaking engagements. He made the observation that if Bill can make that much money as a post-Presidency speaker, imagine how much Barack Obama might make speaking after his Presidential term. After all, Barack is a better speaker than Bill.

The whole thing was a funny riff on money and politics and money and sports. And the Barack point may have been facetious. But it did remind me that Bill doesn’t get paid for the quality of his speeches. He earns a great deal of money for two reasons. One is that people want to mingle and listen to celebrities of any kind. An ex-President, no matter how miserable an orator, can make a lot of money selling face time. But the real reason Bill is in demand is his wife. He’s the husband of the Senator from New York and possibly the next President of the United States. People are paying for influence and access to power. They’re buying a lottery ticket. Just one more reason that campaign finance laws are ridiculous. As the Washington Post reports [3]:

Many of Bill Clinton’s six-figure speeches have been made to
companies whose employees and political action committees have been
among Hillary Clinton’s top backers in her Senate campaigns. The New
York investment giant Goldman Sachs paid him $650,000 for four speeches
in recent years. Its employees and PAC have given her $270,000 since
2000 — putting it second on the list of her most generous political
patrons.

The banking firm Citigroup, whose employees and PAC have
been Hillary Clinton’s top source of campaign donations, with more than
$320,000, paid her husband $250,000 for a speech in France in 2004.
Last year, it committed $5.5 million for Clinton’s Global Initiative to
help encourage entrepreneurship and financial education among the poor.

Unless Michelle Obama runs for office after the two terms of Barack, I doubt Barack will earn quite as much as Bill.

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