Bill Clinton Cashed In When Hillary Became Secretary of State

New book offers no evidence of wrongdoing.

ByABC News
April 23, 2015, 9:41 AM

— -- After his wife became Secretary of State, former President Bill Clinton began to collect speaking fees that often doubled or tripled what he had been charging earlier in his post White House years, bringing in millions of dollars from groups that included several with interests pending before the State Department, an ABC News review of financial disclosure records shows.

Where he once had drawn $150,000 for a typical address in the years following his presidency, Clinton saw a succession of staggering paydays for speeches in 2010 and 2011, including $500,000 paid by a Russian investment bank and $750,000 to address a telecom conference in China.

“It’s unusual to see a former president’s speaking fee go up over time,” said Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office under President George W. Bush. “I must say I’m surprised that he raised his fees. There’s no prohibition on his raising it. But it does create some appearance problems if he raises his fee after she becomes Secretary of State.”

Public speaking became a natural and lucrative source of income for Clinton when he returned to private life in 2001. Records from disclosure forms filed by Hillary Clinton during her tenures in the U.S. Senate and then in the Obama Administration indicate he took in more than $105 million in speech fees during that 14 year period.

That steady flow of income has come under scrutiny in recent days, as it formed an element of a book by author and conservative think tank fellow Peter Schweizer called “Clinton Cash,” due for release in coming days. ABC News received an advanced copy of the book, which highlights instances where domestic and foreign companies with pending interests before the State Department made large donations to the Clinton’s charitable enterprises or, in some cases, helped underwrite the former president’s speeches. The book offers no proof that Hillary Clinton took any direct action to benefit the groups and interests that were paying her husband.

An independent review of source material by ABC News uncovered errors in the book, including an instance where paid and unpaid speaking appearances were conflated. Schweizer said the errors would be corrected. But those same records supported the premise that former President Clinton accepted speaking fees from numerous companies and individuals with interests pending before the State Department.

A spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment from ABC News, but the campaign’s leadership has been very aggressive in attacking the premise and content of the book. John Podesta, the campaign chairman, told PBS, "He's cherry-picked information that's been disclosed and woven a bunch of conspiracy theories about it.”

During her first visit to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate Monday, Hillary Clinton brushed off other finance-related allegations referenced in "Clinton Cash" about the Clinton Foundation's acceptance of donations from foreign governments, dismissing them as being a "distraction" from the issues of her campaign.

"Well, we're back into the political season and therefore we will be subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks and I'm ready for that. I know that that comes unfortunately with the territory," Clinton told reporters.