Chelsea Clinton And Privilege

When you're being paid $65,000 to speak for less than an hour, you're pretty much the poster child for privilege.

Hillary Bill Chelsea Clinton

The political blogosphere is buzzing a bit today over a story about a university that balked at paying Hillary Clinton’s $275,000 speaking fee, so they invited her daughter to come speak for $65,000 instead:

When the University of Missouri at Kansas City was looking for a celebrity speaker to headline its gala luncheon marking the opening of a women’s hall of fame, one of the names that came to mind was Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But when the former secretary of state’s representatives quoted a fee of $275,000, officials at the public university balked. “Yikes!” one e-mailed another.

So the school booked the next best option: her daughter, Chelsea.

The university paid $65,000 for Chelsea Clinton’s brief appearance Feb. 24, 2014, a demonstration of the celebrity appeal and marketability that the former and possibly second-time first daughter employs on behalf of her mother’s presidential campaign and family’s global charitable empire.

More than 500 pages of e-mails, contracts and other internal documents obtained by The Washington Post from the university under Missouri public record laws detail the school’s long courtship of the Clintons.

They also show the meticulous efforts by Chelsea Clinton’s image-makers to exert tight control over the visit, ranging from close editing of marketing materials and the introductory remarks of a high school student to limits on the amount of time she spent on campus.

The schedule she negotiated called for her to speak for 10 minutes, participate in a 20-minute, moderated question-and-answer session and spend a half-hour posing for pictures with VIPs offstage.

The e-mails show that the university initially inquired about Chelsea Clinton but her speaking agency indicated she was unlikely to do the speech. At that point, a university vice chancellor urged organizers to “shoot for the moon” and pursue the former secretary of state, who proved too expensive.

So the university turned back to others, eventually choosing Chelsea Clinton when the agency indicated she was willing. Just shy of her 34th birthday, Clinton commanded a higher fee than other prominent women speakers who were considered, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem ($30,000) and journalists Cokie Roberts ($40,000), Tina Brown ($50,000) and Lesley Stahl ($50,000), the records show.

Officials with the school appeared to believe Clinton was worth her fee, which university spokesman John Martellaro said was paid using private donations. They exulted to Clinton’s representatives that the luncheon sold out quickly, with 1,100 tickets selling for $35 each — which would equal $38,500. University officials say the event was intended to boost attention for the new hall of fame, not raise money.

“Chelsea was the perfect fit,” Amy Loughman, an alumni relations official who managed the event, wrote in an e-mail a few days later. “It created fantastic buzz in the community.”

In his own post about this story, Jazz Shaw makes a point that had also occurred to me:

[T]he children and other relatives of elected officials and candidates are not very compelling subjects unless they are actively inserting themselves into our game. (Alright… Billy Carter was an exception, but the guy was hilarious.) That rule of thumb includes Chelsea Clinton. As a child she was kept pretty much out of the media eye and even as an adult her activities haven’t beenall that overtly political except when she hits the trail occasionally in support of her mom. So unless and until she either runs for office or is definitively indicated as being directly and personally involved in some corruption on the part of the family foundation, she’s just not that interesting to me.

As general rule, stories about political spouses and wives don’t interest me. They’re not running for office, they’re not the ones who are going to be making the decisions if the candidate wins, so what’s going on with them just doesn’t seem relevant. When the make mistakes, such as when the Bush twins were caught using Fake ID at a bar when they were still in college, it seems to me it’s really only relevant if there’s a serious crime involved, or if political influence was used to avert responsibility for wrongdoing. Chelsea, though, is an adult and she is becoming an increasingly visible part of both her mother’s campaign and her father’s foundation. There have been suggestions that, if her mother wins, the younger Clinton could end up heading the Foundation in place of her father, or that she could end up assuming the vast majority of the social duties normally performed by a First Lady. At some point, she crossed the line from being a politician’s child and into the territory of being something of a public figure on her own. The fact that someone is willing to pay more than many Americans make in a year to hear her speak is probably the best evidence of that.

It’s worth noting at the start that, as her parents have with some of their speeches, Chelsea Clinton donated the fee she was paid for this appearance to the Clinton Foundation rather than pocketing as income. Nonetheless, the anecdote raises many of the same issues that came to light over the past several months as we’ve learned more about how much former President and Mrs. Clinton have earned from public speaking, often before trade groups and corporations that had business dealings with the Clinton Foundation and business with the State Department while Hillary was Secretary of State. On some level, perhaps, I can understand why people would want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to hear Bill or Hillary Clinton speak. Former President Clinton especially is still an engaging, entertaining public speaker no matter what the topic might be, something that was demonstrated quite well by his speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention, which was arguably the best speech of the entire event. That understanding doesn’t flow to their daughter, though. Much like the $600,000 she was paid to do essentially meaningless puff pieces for an NBC News show that has since been canceled and we saw the political media fawn over the news she was pregnant last year, it seems rather obvious that the youngest Clinton is basically making a living at this point riding the family coattails. I don’t necessarily begrudge that, but given the fact that her mother so frequently speaks about income inequality and other issues it’s somewhat odd that Chelsea is getting paid more than people with long, accomplished careers like Cokie Roberts and Lesley Stahl to speak about, well, I’m not at all sure what she’s speaking about. As much as we can complain about the apparent injustice of the children of the ultra-rich gaining access to halls of power and wealth based on their family name, shouldn’t those complaints also include a woman who would obviously not be getting $65,000 for a speaking engagement if her name was Chelsea Jones? To put it another way, isn’t Chelsea Clinton a walking advertisement for the very kind of privilege that Democrats have been complaining about for years?

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2016, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. wr says:

    Amusing that in a country entirely devoted to making sure the privileged keep and increase their privileges, the only instances of this that bother otherwise-libertarian Doug involve the Clintons.

    What does Bristol Palin get paid to keep speeches on chastity in between her out-of-wedlock pregnancies? What doors were opened for Neil Bush? Did Alexandra Pelosi’s last name help her sell documentaries?

    None of that matters, I guess. It’s only a problem if it’s the Clintons.

  2. John Peabody says:

    It’s just a free market at work, that’s all.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    She is a child of privilege. There’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s see what she does with it.

    As for making a lot of money giving a speech, outside of elected officials that’s a completely unregulated free market. People get paid for exactly the attention they draw to the sponsoring organization. Is it fair that she gets more than people with real accomplishments. Morally, no. But in the free market, absolutely. Steinem, Roberts, etc charge exactly what the market will bear and so does Chelsea.

    I will concede that there is at least the potential that these people feel they are buying influence with her mom. If her prices start going up then you may have a scandal.

  4. @wr:

    Those are all good examples too. Chelsea Clinton just happens to be the one in the news for something other than the reason Bristol is in the news right now (which is something I have no interest in writing about at all)

  5. Davebo says:

    How is this any different from Jeb Bush pulling in over 50K a pop over a 100 times for speaking engagements Doug?

    And is Raphael Cruz running around the wing nut welfare circuit spouting nonsense for free?

    Oh, wait. The difference is that she donated her honorarium to charity.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    How galling it must be to Doug that the subject of this post is soon to be the daughter of two different presidents…

  7. @An Interested Party:

    I’ve been saying for the better part of two years that Hillary is likely to win in November 2016. I sure as heck won’t be voting for her, or the Republican nominee in all likelihood, but I’m pretty much numb to it at this point.

  8. Tyrell says:

    @MarkedMan: $65,000 ? Dern !! Can she sing ?
    And I thought Taylor Swift tickets were high !

  9. Steve V says:

    Jenna Bush has a pretty similar profile to Chelsea Clinton. Has anyone reported on how much NBC pays her? What her speaking fees are? I’m honestly asking; I haven’t seen anything about it.

  10. EddieInCA says:

    And Luke Russert got the job at NBC because he was so gosh darn awesome.

    And Jenna Bush Hager got HER job at NBC because she was so gosh darn awesome.

    And Chris Cuomo got his job at CNN because he was just so gosh darn awesome.

    And Peter Doocy got his job at Fox News because he was just so gosh darn awesome.

    And Bristol Pailn got $300K from the Candies Foundation because she is just so awesome.

    And Abby Huntsman got her MSNBC gig just because she’s so awesome.

    It’s a very long list. With all those targets, Chelsea is the one you choose to go after?

    Your Clinton hatred is really coming through.

  11. Argon says:

    The Bush girls are so-o-o-o-o jealous.

  12. Modulo Myself says:

    The university paid her because they needed a quasi-celebrity to headline a ‘gala luncheon’, which is all about fund-raising. They dangled social capital hoping to get real capital in return. That’s all. Harvard goes after bigger game like John Paulson. They certainly would have sprung for Hillary.

    Focusing on Chelsea Clinton getting a small slice of the pie is almost like purposeful misdirection. Our educational institutions are amalgams of investment strategy and brand identity that dabble in teaching. That’s the scandal.

  13. Ron Beasley says:

    @EddieInCA: Actually I like Luke Russert more than I ever liked his dad and Abby Huntsman is very good at what she does.

  14. Lenoxus says:

    As general rule, stories about political spouses and wives don’t interest me.

    Spouses… and wives? (Typo, I assume.)

  15. Hal_10000 says:

    @EddieInCA:

    It’s a very long list. With all those targets, Chelsea is the one you choose to go after?

    1) H. Clinton is currently running for the most powerful position in the world.

    2) Clinton’s platform is built on going after income inequality, in particular the 1%. This is just a repeat of their cynical ’92 campaign when they railed against the “decade of greed” when it turned out that they had been involved in just as many 80’s financial shenanigans as anyone else. And it’s yet another sign than anyone who thinks Clinton II is going to go after the wealthy or try to do something about income inequality is smoking something.

    As it happens, I think it’s irrelevant to her campaign. You don’t need to go to Chelsea to see how deeply embedded the Clintons are with financial and business interests.

  16. Pinky says:

    It’s been at least two years since anyone used the word “privilege” right. Thanks to this article, the streak continues.

  17. SKI says:

    To put it another way, isn’t Chelsea Clinton a walking advertisement for the very kind of privilege that Democrats have been complaining

    I don’t think the issue is that privilege exists. Of course it does. It always has and likely always will.

    The issue is when those who have benefited from privilege don’t/can’t/won’t acknowledge that reality and act/vote/govern/judge as if it doesn’t exist.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    People don’t pay amount X to see person Y. Corporation, charity, foundation Z pays X to Y so that people who want to see Y will come to their event.

    In this case it’s Chelsea Clinton being asked to speak and being paid some money which she will donate to her family foundation and its work. Would people be happier if she kept the money? I don’t get it. I’ll be damned if I see anything like an issue here. This is just the theoretically libertarian Doug trying to stir up class envy. A rather odd thing for a libertarian to wish to do.

    Let me cut to the chase: Hillary Clinton is rich.

    There you go. Now it’s out there. The truth is revealed. My goodness, wasn’t that exciting? And maybe we can skip the next dozen or so transparent efforts to make us hate the Clintons for having money.

  19. stonetools says:

    FDR had lots of privilege. He chose to use it to help the poor and the working class, save America from the Great Depression, and save the world from Hitler.

    It’s not whether you have privilege. It’s what you do with it. In the immortal words of Ben Parker , “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Chelsea is using her powers for good. Kudos to her.

  20. Scott says:

    I have no problem with the speaking fees some of these people get. More power to them. The people I question are the ones paying the fees. Especially for commencement speeches where most of the graduates just want to get the heck out of there.

  21. Modulo Myself says:

    One thing I’ve noticed is that conservatives have weird issues with there being interest in famous people. It’s like they resent that more than the money.

  22. CSK says:

    It’s a fact of life and the free market that celebrities get paid high fees for speaking. Very often they don’t say much worth listening to, but that’s beside the point.

    What’s irritating to me, as a writer–and may well be for Michael Reynolds, and I ask his pardon in advance if I’m out-of-line in making that assumption–is the truly outrageous sums publishers spend for celebrity books that are going to end up on the remainder table in six months or less. This is money that could be spent buying books that people actually want to read, and would eventually turn a profit for the publisher.

  23. stonetools says:

    First, George W. Bush. Shot:

    Since 2009, the former president has given at least 200 paid speeches, typically pocketing $100,000 to $175,000 per appearance.

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/on-talk-circuit-george-bush-makes-millions-but-few-waves-118697.html#ixzz3eZiC9m70

    Now, Presidential candidate Jeb.

    Chaser:

    Eight years ago, Bush — best known by the acronym “Jeb” — departed from Florida’s governor’s mansion determined to boost his $1,288,000 net worth in the private sector. Since, he has made millions in corporate board fees, speaking gigs, and consulting payments — but, much like his tenure before getting into public life, has done so with a series of companies that have found their way into legal or financial quagmires.

    Oddly , nothing to be heard from Doug on these- but lots on the Clintons.
    Shakespeare has an apt quote about this-something about Denmark…

  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I guess Paris Hilton doesn’t bother Doug near as much as Chelsea Clinton. Really Doug, I have never complained about the amount of money people get for making speeches. Nice work if you can get it. I have questioned the sanity of the people paying them tho..

  25. grumpy realist says:

    I guess the free market is ok until we start dealing with celebrities, in which case it’s not ok?

    Look, if I were suddenly the focus of media attention, I’d probably be charging $35,000 per appearance simply to cut down on the interruptions. And if anyone is stupid enough to pay that money….well, it’s much better that I have the money than the fool, because I’ll use the cash much more efficiently.

    One would think that Doug has never heard of the free market.

  26. James Pearce says:

    To put it another way, isn’t Chelsea Clinton a walking advertisement for the very kind of privilege that Democrats have been complaining about for years?

    Yes, but I’ve found that a full understanding of human nature takes into account certain levels of hypocrisy.

    Just because I like chocolate sauce on my ice cream doesn’t mean I want it on my mashed potatoes. That doesn’t make me a hypocrite. “But you said you liked chocolate sauce!!!!”

    Isn’t it just as rich and curious to see “what the market will bear” types complain about Chelsea Clinton’s “privilege?” Yes, our elites are privileged. We work very hard to keep them that way.

  27. Tillman says:

    Filing this one under “who gives a crap.”

  28. wr says:

    @Hal_10000: ” Clinton’s platform is built on going after income inequality, in particular the 1%. This is just a repeat of their cynical ’92 campaign when they railed against the “decade of greed” when it turned out that they had been involved in just as many 80’s financial shenanigans as anyone else. And it’s yet another sign than anyone who thinks Clinton II is going to go after the wealthy or try to do something about income inequality is smoking something.”

    Right. Because if someone believes the game has to be changed, he is forbidden to play by the existing rules and must attempt to live as if he had already succeeded.

    What pious nonsense, as ludicrous as whining about how Obama said in 08 he wanted to change the campaign finance system and yet took campaign cash under the existing rules, when he really should have kneecapped himself by refusing to spend a single penny, thus demonstrating his purity.

    FDR was rich and he lived by it. By your formulation he could or would never have done any of the thing he did in office…

  29. de stijl says:

    This is just the theoretically libertarian Doug trying to stir up class envy. A rather odd thing for a libertarian to wish to do.

    You go to war with the foolishness you read on Hit and Run today, not the foolishness you wished Hit and Run had written.

    @Pinky:

    It’s been at least two years since anyone used the word “privilege” right.

    Thank god we’re talking about old-school “privilege” and not new-school “privilege.” If the Clinton’s had a son, we might have to pretend he has something worth listening to a la Luke Russert.

    At least with a stupid girl like Chelsea, we can blow off the whole content thing, and just jump to criticizing her for being fat or slutty or being a total ugo or wearing an unflattering outfit. You know, important stuff.

    Time saved! Male privilege totally rules!

  30. al-Ameda says:

    It’s a timeless kabuki: We’re a country that is devoted to the pursuit of making money, and of course we pretend to be outraged when we read of famous/privileged people making money.

    I suppose that it comes down to style points. Old money types (the Bush clan) don’t bother us, but new money types (the Clintons) that’s another matter.

  31. JohnMcC says:

    @wr: Totally off-topic and unimportant remark but I think your illustration that “Obama said he wanted to change the campaign finance system yet took campaign cash under the old rules” is correct in the sense that he didn’t break any existing rules. But that was the first campaign after the federal matching funds program began in 1976 to refuse federal contribution and run completely on donations many of which were quite small.

    Meaningless point but it was interesting to me at the time.

  32. stonetools says:

    ALso OT, but far more important than the pointless Clinton bashing OP, from the President himself:

    We’ve got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded. Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve. That’s partly because we’ve failed to update overtime regulations for years — and an exemption meant for highly paid, white collar employees now leaves out workers making as little as $23,660 a year — no matter how many hours they work.

    This week, I’ll head to Wisconsin to discuss my plan to extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers in 2016, covering all salaried workers making up to about $50,400 next year. That’s good for workers who want fair pay, and it’s good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve — since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren’t

    And the hits just keep on coming. I’m sure Scott Walker appreciates the President showing up in his backyard to tallk about the government helping workers, instead of stripping power and protection from them.

  33. stonetools says:

    @stonetools:

    BTW, another example of a privileged person-Barack Obama is now a millionaire-using his powers for good :-).

  34. Ben Wolf says:

    @stonetools: Good what?

  35. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Chelsea is a not a public figure on her own. She does not like to talk about her time in the White House nor about her parents, it´s relatively rare to see her giving interviews. People like Alicia Menendez or Abby Huntsman are always on TV talking about everything, Chelsea is not.

    I suspect that many people don´t like her precisely because of that.

  36. BlixKrogg says:

    “Trickle down” economics.

  37. MBunge says:

    1. I do think there’s some worth in examining this because it so starkly illustrates how the system gets rigged in favor of those already at the top. There are plenty of commenters here who could probably give a better speech than Chelsea Clinton while also having accomplished more on their own merits. This is inherited, not earned privilege and the fact that Chelsea is less obsessed with fame for fame’s sake than Paris Hilton doesn’t change that.

    2. Having said that, it’s not like anyone is being harmed by Chelsea Clinton taking a ride on the VIP train. The problem is that plenty of people involved in our political discourse join her. Speechifying used to be something you did when your public career was over. Now it’s become something that people who make more than 90% of Anericans use as a financial and ego balm to soothe their insecurities at not being able to keep up with the people who make more tha 99% of Americans, without care or even understanding of how it compromises them.

    Mike

  38. Lit3Bolt says:

    Doug, you should take this as a compliment.

    You’re bad at hatchet jobs.

  39. Slugger says:

    Money plays too large a role in our politics. Surely, people giving Chelsea that kind of moolah expect some future consideration. This huge amount of money sloshing around surely attracts people to political life who are motivated by motives other than patriotic service. JEB has reportedly picked up around $19 million. No wonder that the Presidential campaign has attracted a crowd. Even the scions of patrician families want to play the game. I doubt that someone pays George Bush a hundred thousand bucks per speech out of pure motives. The libertarian handwaving about free markets is tripe, bs, and either represents people fooling other people or fooling themselves. We need to think of ways of pulling the fangs. The R/D duopoly is scamming us while distracting us with so called social issues.

  40. michael reynolds says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    That’s very perceptive. I wonder what you do for a living.

  41. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: This overtime issue came up for teachers a few years ago in the local district. The superintendent wanted to start docking them when they left early or came in late because of appointments. The school board attorney told him that if you start doing that, then you would have to start paying them overtime for all of the meetings, supervising events, workshops, bus duty, etc. If they did that the county budget would go in a hole. So the superintendent dropped it. Teachers, and other salaried workers, do not have set hours. So this overtime proposal by the president could cause problems or could help. As usual, these sort of ideas sound good, but are not thought through or researched enough. In the case of teachers, it could actually cause some of them to work more hours. In many schools, the teachers can leave when the students leave. And how do you figure a teacher’s hourly day ? A lot of teachers have to take work home to do – grading papers, planning. I am not sure the president’s proposal actually could make things worse. It could result in more costs for some school districts, which already having a budget crisis. Then they would have to lay off more teachers. But I have a feeling that the schools would be exempted from this provision, mainly because teachers are not year round employees. Again, most teachers would not want to be on a time clock pay system.

  42. Tyrell says:

    $65,000: do you get anything else besides a speech ?

  43. John425 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Let me cut to the chase: Hillary Clinton is rich.

    “There you go. Now it’s out there. The truth is revealed. My goodness, wasn’t that exciting? And maybe we can skip the next dozen or so transparent efforts to make us hate the Clintons for having money.”

    Too bad you don’t see the irony in this when you bash the Koch brothers and other conservatives

  44. gVOR08 says:

    @John425: What irony? I take second place to no one in despising the Koch Bros. But their wealth enters into it only peripherally in that it enables them to do the things I do despise them for, trying to thwart democracy by buying a government that suits their RW ideology, i.e. one that will delay doing anything about AGW as long as possible, will cut their taxes, and will go easy on them for their oil spills.

  45. EddieInCA says:

    @John425:

    Too bad you don’t see the irony in this when you bash the Koch brothers and other conservatives.

    That’s asinine. No one is bashing the Koch’s for having money. Just like no one bashes Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett, or Larry Ellison, or Elon Musk for having money.

    I bash the Koch brothers because they use their money to deny science.
    I bash the Koch brothers because they use their money to attempt to thwart democracy.
    I bash the Koch brothers because they use their money to push right-wing policies that have failed everywhere they’ve been tried (Kansas, Wisconsin, Louisiana are just the latest examples.)

    When HIllary and Bill Clinton start using their money to thwart democracy and deny science, then you will have a legitimate complaint about hypocrisy on the left. Until then, you just expose even further how shallow and laughable your position actually. is.

  46. michael reynolds says:

    @John425:

    I don’t think you’re intellectually equipped to understand what irony is.

    As @EddieInCA points out, Democrats do not, and never have, hated or resented the rich. We don’t like rich aszholes, but then we also don’t like poor aszholes.

    This is the kind of dumb people like you pick up from Limbaugh or some right-wing website. You’re told that liberals hate the rich. There’s no basis in reality, but being credulous you buy it. Then you trot your latest borrowed bit of cleverness over here, lay it out, and are promptly embarrassed by being shown to be obviously wrong.

    It’s not the first time.

    My question is: How many times do you have to be shown that your brainwashing is nonsense before it finally dawns on you that the folks you listen to are either stupid or dishonest or both? When do you finally get a clue?