No president before former President Bill Clinton has managed to cash in from his time in office with such abandon. In the six years since he left the presidency, Clinton has taken in nearly $40 million-between $9 million and $10 million of it last year. Clinton averaged "almost a speech a day" in 2006, according to a Washington Post story by John Solomon and Matthew Mosk. Twenty percent of his fees reportedly "were for personal income." The rest of his speeches, says the Post, were for no fee or for donations to Clinton's foundation.
Unlike liberal Democrats, I am not obsessed with how much others make, as long as it's honest money and they pay their taxes. It ought to be a concern, though, when so much money is paid to a former president by foreign governments, foreign entities, and corporations with interests in U.S. foreign and domestic policies. While Bill Clinton is no longer in a position to determine such policies, his wife, the junior senator from New York and Democratic presidential candidate, is.
Were it not for the disclosure forms required of high-level officials, we might never have known the full extent of the Clinton ATM (always throw money) machine. One of the reasons for disclosure forms is to ensure no improper influences are exerted on public officials by outside groups or governments. Among those for whom Clinton spoke were a Saudi Arabian investment firm ($600,000 for two speeches), a Chinese real estate firm run by a Communist Party official ($200,000), and a Toronto company founded by a Kenyan immigrant who was convicted of stock fraud and barred for life from the brokerage business ($650,000 in 2005 and an undisclosed sum last year). The public needs to know more about their backgrounds.
While other ex-presidents have spoken for money, there has been nothing on this scale and none of their spouses served as elected officials.
If the new Democratic congressional leadership is serious about living up to its pledge of a far more ethical body than the one run by Republicans, the Senate Ethics Committee will get on this right away.
There ought to be an investigation into the associations and ties of especially foreign governments and interests who paid these big bucks to Clinton.
-© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.