Something really doesn’t compute about the Clinton family finances. In an interview Monday, Hillary Clinton claimed that when she and Bill Clinton left the White House, they were $12 million in debt. How in the world did this happen?
For eight years they lived in public housing. In 1999 the Clinton’s federal tax return showed their joint income of over $417,000. That was dramatically up from 1992, which they later told the public was over $290,000. How did they rack up $12 million in bills? Granted, the president, over the course of his presidency, had some legal bills. But even that wouldn’t explain it. His legal defense fund raised millions for him. Hillary Clinton left the White House with a tidy $8 million book advance.
Their finances surely improved from 2000-2008. The New York Times reported in April 2008: “Former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton earned a combined $109 million between 2000 and 2007 and paid $33.8 million in federal taxes.” Between 2008 and 2012, Bill Clinton got his annual $200,000 presidential pension and gave speeches on a regular basis; Hillary Clinton drew her salary as secretary of state, about $200,000 per year. Bill Clinton released a book in 2011, with an undisclosed advance. The advance for Hillary Clinton’s just-published memoir was pegged at $13 million to $14 million. That still didn’t stop her quest for more income.
Hillary Clinton has been giving six-figure speeches since she left the State Department, accepting the largess of all sorts of private financial interests. So when is enough money, you know, enough? It is impossible to claim that she needed the money in a sense regular people could understand. Why would Hillary Clinton claim poverty with an income record like that? When did the debt get paid off? All this matters for several reasons.
First, how she made her money and to whom she is indebted matters greatly. Between the two of them, they’ve taken in a whole lot of speaking fees from industries that do a lot of business with or are regulated by the federal government. She runs in circles with the richest of the rich, at a time when government cronyism is a pressing public issue. Second, if it mattered how much Mitt Romney made — in part because it reflects on his ability to relate to average people — then it matters for Hillary Clinton. And, finally, there is something distasteful about a woman supposedly so dedicated to women and kids and the world’s needy who spends her time making millions upon millions of dollars speaking to rich people. For some voters, it suggests a skewed sense of values, and for others it reminds us that the Clintons have always had a very wealthy circle of friends with lavish lifestyles. The determination to keep up with the Joneses (or the Spielbergs) is perfectly legitimate — but not if you harangue the 1 percent and cast oneself as a selfless servant of the underprivileged.
Why has she been so financially driven when her wealth far exceeds those of almost every American? It is worth asking her, and her answer might provide some insight into what motivates her and why she apparently has felt so deprived while living in the lap of luxury.