Hillary Clinton donates big speaking fees to a nonprofit foundation – her own

Hillary Clinton is taking a break from her book tour and speaking schedule. But she’ll be back at it in the fall, very aware that her lead over all potential Republican presidential rivals may be slipping.

Neil Hall/REUTERS
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signs copies of her book "Hard Choices" at a Waterstones book store in London July 3, 2014.

The Clintons are headed to the Hamptons for an extended summer break, and who can blame them?

All that “will she or wont she” clamor over whether Hillary Clinton will run for the White House in 2016. Damage-controlling the eye-rolls over her comment about the Clinton’s being “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001, a comment she concedes was “inartful.” Criticism of her big fees for speaking at colleges and universities.

On Friday, Mrs. Clinton told ABC News’ Ann Compton that all of the money she’s made from colleges since she left her post as secretary of state has been donated to a nonprofit foundation – hers.

“All of the fees have been donated to the Clinton Foundation for it to continue its life-changing and life-saving work,” Clinton said. “So it goes from a foundation at a university to another foundation.”

To give the organization its full name, that’s the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation (originally, the William J. Clinton Foundation).

Set up the year after Bill Clinton finished his second term as president, the Clinton Foundation says its mission is “to bring people together to take on the biggest challenges of the 21st century,” including economic development, global health, climate change, and empowering women and girls.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the foundation has collected between $750 million and $1.7 billion over the years. That’s a lot of clout for influencing the public – i.e., political – discussion on major issues, something any other politician with presidential stars in his or her eyes could only envy.

Meanwhile, Clinton continues to promote her new memoir “Hard Choices,” which has gotten mixed reviews but is a blockbuster as self-promotional political tomes go.

US News reports that in its first week, “Hard Choices” outsold the combined total sale of books by five potential GOP candidates – including Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Scott Walker, Rep. Paul Ryan, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and former Gov. Jeb Bush. Her book has also done better than those of two potential Democratic rivals: Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

But her speaking fees – whether or not they’re going to her nonprofit – seem certain to continue generating controversy.

Students at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas say they’ll protest the $225,000 their school has agreed to pay Clinton for a speech in October. In her ABC interview, Clinton tried – artfully – to turn aside that potential for trouble.

“It’s been my experience that they’re not worried about my speaking or my household, they’re worried about their own,” she said. “And that’s the kind of debate I think I’m furthering as I go around the country speaking.”

She may be taking a vacation from that speaking tour, but “will maintain a dizzying schedule for much of the year,” reports The Hill magazine. “Clinton, who has not decided to run for president but is widely expected to do so, will address several groups in key states in the coming months, some of which could be helpful for per possible campaign.”

She’s aware, of course, that her front-runner status may become tenuous as the 2014 mid-term elections come and go and as 2016 approaches.

Writing in Forbes, veteran pollster John Zogby notes that her lead over Jeb Bush and Rand Paul is narrowing.

“Some pundits suggest that it is good that … Clinton is airing her dirty linen and making her campaign mistakes now with over two years to go until the 2016 elections,” Mr. Zogby writes. “Others, me included, argue that this lackluster performance is not likely to go away. Whichever side is right, the fact is that a new Zogby Analytics poll taken June 27-29 shows that her past two weeks in the limelight have hurt her with the voting public.”

Among Zogby’s findings: Clinton’s lead over Mr. Bush has dwindled among men, 18-29 year olds, 30-49 year olds, independents, Catholics, Hispanics, voters in union households, single voters, social networkers, and Weekly Wal-Mart Shoppers. Similarly, Clinton’s lead over Mr. Paul among these key voter groups has dropped as well.

As she continues her high-paid speaking tour in the fall, you can bet Clinton will be very mindful of such trends.

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