‘Dead broke’: A deep dive into the Clintons’ finances

This post has been corrected.

Much has been made of Hillary Rodham Clinton's assertion to ABC's Diane Sawyer that when her husband, Bill, left the presidency, the couple was "dead broke." The assertion, as we noted  Monday, is true.

In 2000, the couple had no more than $2 million in assets, but perhaps as much as $10 million in debt, according to Clinton's financial disclosure documents she filed as a senator, available via the Center for Responsive Politics. That debt was legal fees, accrued over the course of Bill Clinton's presidency as he battled investigations into the couple's Whitewater investments and then, of course, Monica Lewinsky.

But if the couple was broke as they walked out of the White House, it took very little time to recover financially. In 2001, Bill made $13 million in speaking fees, and Hillary brought in nearly $2.5 million, presumably from her advance for "Living History." By 2004, the debt was erased.


Hillary Clinton speaks at the United Fresh Produce Association in Chicago. (Jim Young/Reuters)

We looked at Bill Clinton's 1998 financial disclosure and expanded the details on the Clintons' financial life (as best as we can glean it). As the years have passed, the Clintons' finances have become more sophisticated. After Clinton left office, a staffer to the former president noticed that Bill Clinton "was keeping a balance of a million dollars in an ordinary checking account," as we reported at the time. By 2006, Clinton owned an investment company called WJC International Investments Gp., LLC, according to the filings.

There are four categories in the tables and charts below.

  • Income. Money Bill and Hillary earned through salary, interest, real estate, or other sources. This all comes from the 1040 filings Hillary submitted as senator. We've broken out the income the pair earned from books and speaking fees.
  • Assets. The Clintons have owned stock, savings bonds, bank accounts and life insurance policies (that have a cash value) like many other Americans. They've also had large deposit accounts and blind trusts, a financial vehicle that prevents an elected official from knowing what his or her investments are.
  • Debt. Hillary Clinton made the claim that the pair was broke based largely on the large legal debt they carried from the Lewinsky and Whitewater investigations.
  • Estimated net worth. It's important to note that the disclosure forms give values in ranges. So in each of the charts below, the dark colored section of the bar is the range of possible values for assets, debts and net worth. The net worth range is simply the lowest and highest possible values of the Clintons' wealth, once the debts are subtracted from the assets.

1998

Even at the outset of the Lewinsky scandal, the Clintons' legal bills had  started to mount. The disclosure document (which is all that was available on the CRP site) indicates that the couple accepted a $2.6 million gift from the Clinton Legal Expense Trust, which helped pay down those costs.

Type Category Amount
Assets Trusts $50,000 to $1,100,000
Other $99,000 to $2,910,000
Debt Legal $2,350,000 to $10,750,000
Other $0
Net worth -$10,601,000 to $1,660,000


2000

Not included in the data below are ongoing receipts from sales of Hillary Clinton's book "It Takes a Village," which were donated to charity each year.

Type Category Amount
Income Wages $199,573
Books (Hillary) $0
Books (Bill) $0
Speaking (Bill) $0
Real estate $0
Pension $0
Other $149,522
Assets Trusts $650,000 to $1,350,000
Other $129,000 to $411,000
Debt Legal $2,280,000 to $10,600,000
Other $0
Net worth -$9,821,000 to -$519,000


2001

In 2001, Hillary Clinton started getting income from her book "Living History." Bill Clinton hit the speaking circuit, and began collecting his government pension.

Remember, the spike in net worth is only a range

Type Category Amount
Income Wages $154,952
Books (Hillary) $2,648,834
Books (Bill) $0
Speaking (Bill) $13,019,450
Real estate $0
Pension $152,750
Other $189,124
Assets Trusts $1,000,000 to $5,000,000
Other $5,064,000 to $25,262,000
Debt Legal $1,300,000 to $5,600,000
Other $0
Net worth $464,000 to $28,962,000


2002

The legal fees increased slightly in 2002 because, as a note indicates, one law firm found invoices from 1998 that it had never provided to the Clintons.

Type Category Amount
Income Wages $150,159
Books (Hillary) $798,703
Books (Bill) $0
Speaking (Bill) $8,378,398
Real estate $0
Pension $166,700
Other $102,540
Assets Trusts $1,000,000 to $5,000,000
Other $1,050,000 to $5,227,000
Debt Legal $1,700,000 to $6,500,000
Other $0
Net worth -$4,450,000 to $8,527,000


2003

While the Clintons reported continued legal debt, there's an important note in the 2003 disclosure: Two of the three firms still owed money had been fully repaid by year's end.

Type Category Amount
Income Wages $655,942
Books (Hillary) $1,853,810
Books (Bill) $0
Speaking (Bill) $4,310,314
Real estate $1,000,000
Pension $171,900
Other $41,408
Assets Trusts $1,000,000 to $5,000,000
Other $1,031,000 to $5,115,000
Debt Legal $1,600,000 to $6,250,000
Other $0
Net worth -$4,219,000 to $8,515,000


2004

The legal debt is gone. Thanks largely to Bill Clinton's continued efforts on the speaking circuit, the Clintons no longer have any significant debt.

Type Category Amount
Income Wages $158,100
Books (Hillary) $2,236,750
Books (Bill) $0
Speaking (Bill) $13,453,014
Real estate $3,981,258
Pension $175,700
Other $259,897
Assets Trusts $5,000,000 to $25,000,000
Other $5,045,000 to $25,151,000
Debt Legal $0
Other $0
Net worth $10,045,000 to $50,151,000


2005

The debt that reappears in 2005 is credit card debt.

Type Category Amount
Income Wages $144,766
Books (Hillary) $875,556
Books (Bill) $0
Speaking (Bill) $11,449,824
Real estate $5,046,870
Pension $180,100
Other $596,819
Assets Trusts $5,000,000 to $25,000,000
Other $5,095,000 to $25,250,000
Debt Legal $0
Other $15,000 to $50,000
Net worth $10,045,000 to $50,235,000


2006

In 2006, Hillary Clinton's blind trust is unblinded to comply with rules surrounding her bid for the presidency.

Type Category Amount
Income Wages $150,321
Books (Hillary) $430,529
Books (Bill) $2,839,686
Speaking (Bill) $8,982,901
Real estate $2,577,971
Pension $183,500
Other $899,000
Assets Trusts $0 to $0
Other $16,810,000 to $52,450,000
Debt Legal $0 to $0
Other $15,000 to $50,000
Net worth $16,760,000 to $52,435,000


Our thanks to Selina Davis, who pointed out an error in how we were calculating net worth totals.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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