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Hillary Clinton and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein during the plenary session titled "Equality for Girls and Women: 2034 Instead of 2134?" at the Clinton Global Initiative 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Hillary Clinton’s Pay-to-Play Speaking Fees Disqualify Her as a Presidential Candidate

Howard Friel

Black’s Law Dictionary defines “recusal” as “removal of oneself as judge or policy-maker in a particular matter, esp. because of a conflict of interest.”

In the federal judiciary—a coequal branch with the executive—judges as well as Supreme Court justices are expected to recuse themselves, and do recuse themselves, from hearing cases with conflicts of interest that are less pronounced as Mrs. Clinton’s.

For example, Wikipedia observes that “in the Supreme Court of the United States, the Justices typically recuse themselves from participating in cases in which they have financial interests.”

In the same rough sense, shouldn’t a presidential candidate recuse herself from the presidency after accepting more than a million dollars of speaking fees from the country’s most powerful investment banks, given the obvious conflicts of interest as potentially the country’s next chief policymaker? If not as a matter of current law, then out of a commitment to political ethics and respect for the office of the presidency?

According to a recent report by CNN, Hillary Clinton was paid more than $21 million for making speeches to private concerns from April 2013 to March 2015, and thus a mere one month prior to her formal announcement as a candidate for president in April 2015.

Of the $21 million, she was paid $1.8 million by Goldman Sachs, UBS, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, and Deutsche Bank.

Her husband, Bill Clinton, according to CNN, was paid at least $5.9 million for at least 39 speeches to big banks, including Goldman Sachs and UBS.

This adds up to Clinton-household income of at least $7.7 million from “big banks” prior to Hillary Clinton’s 2015 announcement as a candidate for president.    

Furthermore, according to an online list of all Hillary Clinton speeches from 2013 to 2015, she was also paid $225,000 and upwards per speech by Fidelity Investments, Verizon Communications, Sanford C. Bernstein, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, CME Group, Boston Consulting Group, SAP Global Marketing, Accenture, General Electric, Xerox Corporation, Cisco, Qualcomm, Drug Chemical and Associated Technologies, California Medical Association, Healthcare Information and Management Association, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and many others.

It is difficult to imagine no breach of ethics when a high-profile, presumptive candidate for president is paid more than $21 million in less than two years for almost no work from corporate, healthcare, investment banks and other concerns, only to announce one month after the speaking tour has ended that she is indeed running for president. 

It is very likely, given the tight chronology, that she was planning to run for president while taking the money for the speeches, contrary to her denial on that count to Anderson Cooper during a recent town  hall event.

Clinton has claimed no conflicts of interest in accepting speaking fees, for example, from Wall Street investment banks. However, on February 8, CNN reported that “Hillary Clinton won’t rule out appointing a Wall Street veteran to the top economic post in the White House.” CNN also noted that “when Clinton was pressed [on NBC’s Meet the Press] on whether she would appoint someone from Wall Street to be her Treasury Secretary, she refused to say no.”

Doesn’t this at least look like a pay-to-play arrangement orchestrated by a leading candidate for the presidency? With more of the same likely to follow if she’s elected?

Hillary Clinton took the money from all of the above. No law against it, currently. But she shouldn’t now be a candidate for president as a result.


Here is the Bill and Hillary Clinton Speaking Fees Chart as Published in Full by CNN on February 5.

Total Bill and Hillary Clinton Speech Income:
February 2001 thru May 2015
Total: $153,669,691
Average: $210,795
Speeches: 729

Total Bill Clinton Speech Income, February 2001 thru May 2015:
Total: $132,021,691
Average: $207,255
Speeches: 637

Total Hillary Clinton Speech Income, April 2013 thru March 2015:
Total: $21,648,000
Average: $235,304
Speeches: 92

Bill and Hillary Speech Income from “Big Banks”: At Least $7.7 Million for at Least 39 Speeches

Hillary Speech Income from “Big Banks”: At Least $1.8 Million for at Least 8 Speeches

[WJC = William Jefferson Clinton; HRC = Hillary Rodham Clinton]

Bill and Hillary Paid Speeches to Goldman Sachs
Total:               $2,225,000 (12 Speeches Total: 9 Bill, 3 Hillary)
12/3/2004            $125,000    WJC    New York, New York
4/20/2005           $125,000    WJC    Kiawah Island, South Carolina
6/6/2005              $250,000   WJC    Paris, France
6/13/2005            $150,000    WJC    Greensboro, Georgia
3/1/2007               $150,000    WJC    Miami, Florida
3/8/2007              $150,000    WJC    Phoenix, Arizona
4/11/2011              $200,000   WJC    New York, New York
10/23/2012          $200,000   WJC    Newport Beach, California
6/6/2013               $200,000   WJC    New York, New York
6/4/2013               $225,000   HRC   Palmetto Bluffs, South Carolina
10/24/2013          $225,000   HRC   New York, New York
10/29/2013          $225,000   HRC   Tucson, Arizona

Bill and Hillary Paid Speeches to UBS
Total                 $1,915,000 (10 Speeches: 9 Bill, 1 Hillary)

8/1/2011                $165,000    WJC    Dallas, Texas
10/17/2011            $150,000    WJC    Los Angeles, California
2/21/2012             $175,000    WJC    Miami, Florida
4/17/2012             $175,000     WJC    Chicago, Illinois
10/18/2012          $175,000     WJC    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
5/9/2013               $175,000     WJC    San Francisco, California
5/19/2014             $225,000    WJC    Washington, D.C,
10/14/2014           $225,000    WJC    Boston, Massachusetts
2/9/2015               $225,000    WJC    Nashville, Tennessee
7/11/2013              $225,000    HRC   New York, New York

Bill and Hillary Paid Speeches to Morgan Stanley
Total                 $350,000 (2 Speeches: 1 Bill; 1 Hillary)

2/5/2001                $125,000  WJC    New York, New York
4/18/2013              $225,000 HRC    Washington, D.C.

Bill and Hillary Paid Speeches to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch
Total                  $1,300,000 (5 Speeches: 4 Bill, 1 Hillary)

11/30/2007            $175,000  WJC    New York, New York
12/1/2011                $200,000 WJC    Orlando, Florida
11/13/2012              $200,000 WJC    Palm Beach, Florida
3/6/2014                 $500,000 WJC    London, England
11/13/2013              $225,000  HRC    Bluffton, South Carolina

Bill and Hillary Paid Speeches to Deutsche Bank
Total                      $1,255,000 (6 Speeches: 4 Bill, 2 Hillary)

5/4/2005                  $150,000  WJC    Baltimore, Maryland
8/11/2005                 $150,000  WJC    New York, New York
10/10/2012               $200,000 WJC    Scottsdale, Arizona
8/27/2014                 $270,000  WJC    Boston, Maryland
4/24/2013                  225,000    HRC    Washington, D.C.
10/7/2014                  $260,000  HRC    New York, New York

Bill Paid Speeches to Citigroup
Total                     $700,000 – (4 Speeches: all Bill, No Hillary)

3/12/2004                  $250,000  WJC    Paris, France
9/13/2006                  $150,000   WJC    New York, New York
11/15/2006                 $150,000   WJC    New York, New York
5/3/2007                     $150,000   WJC    New York, New York

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