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The Price Of Political Speakers

Olivia Niland |
November 13, 2013 | 11:47 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The price of political speakers (Didi Beck/Neon Tommy)
The price of political speakers (Didi Beck/Neon Tommy)
What do politicians like Bill Clinton, Karl Rove and Condeleeza Rice have in common? Aside from being (in)famous, these former public officials have gone from serving the public to simply public speaking--for a pretty high price. Although politicians leave their elected positions after a few terms, they never step out of the public eye. Most go on to be speakers at universities and special events both nationally and internationally, and make much more than they did in public office. 

Former President George W. Bush is slated to speak at the University of Southern California Nov. 18, 2013. Like many famous public officials, Bush will be paid handsomely for his speech, hosted by USC's College Republicans. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Bush earns between $100,000 and $150,000 per speaking engagement, the annual tuition of two to four USC students.

Bill Clinton: $195,000

Since leaving office in 2001, President Clinton's speaking engagements have earned him more than $100 million for 544 paid speeches, according to CNN. 2012 was reportedly the most profitable year for the former president, with an annual speaking income of $17 million. Clinton gave a highly lauded speech at the Democratic National Convention that August, and in February 2012 he earned $700,000 for one speech given to a newspaper publishing company in Nigeria. 

"I never had any money until I got out of the White House,” said Clinton at a forum in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010. “But I've done reasonably well since then."

Due to his wife's position as a federal official, Clinton's speaking fees were made public, but as both are now considered private citizens once again (barring a position in the federal government or run for federal office by either) such records have become private once more. 

Hillary Clinton: $200,000

The former Secretary of State's minimum speaking fee is estimated to be $200,000 per speech, according to Politico. Given the presumed likelihood of another presidential run by Clinton in 2016, the former senator and Secretary of State faces heightened security and restrictions regarding both the content and venues for her speeches. Clinton has used her speaking engagements thus far to address women's rights issues, immigration and conflicts in the Middle East. 

“We are so lucky as a nation that we have the talents of people from everywhere. Our diversity is one of our great strengths,” said Clinton in a recent address at the annual Mexican American Leadership Initiative Awards Brunch in Los Angeles. “Part of the obvious argument of immigration reform is, we are a nation of immigrants, and we ought to be celebrating rather than fearing it.”

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton are represented by the Harry Walker Agency. 

Al Gore: $100,000

The former Clinton administration vice president, and Nobel Peace Laureate, has earned as much as $156,000 per speech in the years since his White House days. The majority of Gore's speeches revolve around climate change, global leadership and economic strategy, according to his speaking circuit representative, the Harry Walker Agency.

“The hard truth is that the maximum that now seems politically feasible still falls short of the minimum necessary to actually solve the climate crisis,” Gore said in a speech at Georgetown University this year. “...Additional steps in the months ahead can change the political reality and build a bipartisan consensus for the broader changes that are needed urgently.”

Jimmy Carter: $50,000-$100,000

The former president commands an average of $50-$75,000 for his speeches about democracy, peace and diplomatic relations, particularly in underdeveloped countries. Carter is well known for advocating for human rights and for his philanthropic work around the world since leaving political office. 

George W. Bush: $110,000

The former president has earned an estimated $15 million since leaving office in 2009, according to the Washington Post, with an average of $110,000 per speech, and has even seen an upturn in approval ratings. Bush gives talks about foreign policy, healthcare, national security and terrorism. In July, Bush addressed immigration reform at a naturalization ceremony in Dallas. 

"The laws governing the immigration system aren't working," said Bush. "The system is broken."

Condoleeza Rice: $100,000-150,000

The former Secretary of State delivers speeches on a wide range of topics, from women's issues and minority groups to terrorism, foreign policy and education. She reportedly earns around the same fee as her former boss, President George W. Bush, though great care is typically taken to keep her speaking engagement fees classified. 

Colin Powell: $100,000-$150,000

The first African-American Joint Chief of Staff, appointed by President George W. Bush, and General is currently both a New York Times best selling author and speaker, and has given talks on foreign policy, patriotism and education. He now commands a hefty average of $150,000 per speech, and has given talks that cost up to $200,000 since his years in the White House. Powell is known for not following scripts and for ad-libbing and telling stories during his speeches, and is also known for diverging from the consensus of the Republican party. 

“I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote,”  Powell said during a speech at a CEO forum in Raleigh, North Carolina in August, speaking out against the state's new voting law which some say is designed to keep minorities from voting. 

Karl Rove: $25,000-$35,000

Rove frequently speaks to College Republicans organizations at various universities, but at past speaking engagements has encountered hecklers as a result of his involvement in the Iraq War during the Bush administration. Rove has reportedly had to lower his speaking fee in response. 

Dick Cheney: $75,000-$100,000

The former vice president is also represented on the speaker's circuit by the Harry Walker agency, and reportedly requires a $100,000 payment per speech, “plus travel, hotel, security and per diem expenses,” according to the Washington Post. Cheney's topics of choice include political leadership and his own personal experience as a five-time heart attack survivor. 

David Petraeus: $100,000-$150,000

The former CIA director, highly-decorated General and current university professor commands between $100,000-$150,000 for his speeches on the Middle East, terrorism and national security. In a speech at the University of Southern California in March 2013, Petraeus acknowledged the damage his extra-marital affair had on his once spotless reputation:

“I am keenly aware that I am seen in a different light than I was a year ago,” said Petraeus, who went on to speak about supporting veterans. “We must look over the families of our fallen heroes, we must take care of our wounded service men and women, we must help our veterans transition successfully to the civilian sector and we must recognize and honor our veterans’ service.”


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