Making Money, Lots of Money, Is What Donald Trump Is Good At: While campaigning for president during the 2016 election, then-candidate Donald Trump berated his opponent Hillary Clinton. Most famously, Trump critiqued Clinton for her use of a personal email account to send sensitive State Department information. But Trump also critiqued Clinton, then a member of the Obama administration, for making so much money off of speeches – often to Wall Street groups. According to Trump, Clinton’s speech-giving was indication that she was in fact “crooked.”
“The special interests pay her for speeches,” Trump said at a Michigan rally in 2016. “And she’s not a good speaker! Not a good speaker. They pay her a lot of money…Who would want to hear Hillary Clinton speak and pay her $200,000, $300,000, $400,000, $500,000? Who?”
You probably know where I’m going with this. In a recently released financial disclosure, Trump reported millions of dollars in income from speaking engagements – which were often hosted at Trump’s own property.
The Washington Post has broken down Trump’s speakership fees relative to the fees of other presidential candidates. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Big money in giving speeches
Hillary Clinton did make a lot of money from speeches. Adjusted for inflation, Clinton’s 2015 speech-giving haul would be the equivalent of $6.7 million in today’s dollars. In total, she gave 22 speeches – many of which she earned in excess of $200,000 (without inflation). Who paid for Clinton’s speeches? Groups include: UBS, Wyndham Hotels, National Association of Manufacturers, Apollo Management Holdings, and Klick.
By comparison, the losing big-party presidential candidate from 2012 – Mitt Romney – barely made a $250,000 total in the year preceding the 2012 election. Romney was never paid six figures for an engagement, and only spoke four times – to Emory University, Goldentree Asset Management, Barclay’s Bank, and Int’l Franchise Association.
In 2020, President Joe Biden, who won the election, earned about half a million dollars from four speeches, made to Eminent Series Group, AEG Presents, Brown University, and the Performing Arts Center.
Donald Trump, By the Numbers
In Trump’s 2016 disclosure, made right around the time he was harping against Clinton’s speaking fees, Trump made just four speeches, to CAN, National Multifamily Housing, Peoples Realty Co, and Samsung Electronics. The fees (without adjustment for inflation) were between $150,000 and $450,000. Not bad for an evening’s worth of work, but nothing like Clinton was making at the time. Yet, upon leaving office, once endowed with the presidential stamp, Trump commanded much more on the speaker’s circuit. Emphasis on much more.
According to Trump’s 2023 disclosure, the former president gave 14 speeches, some of which were for seven figure sums. Here are a few of the highlights: About $1.5 million from Tour with O’Reilly; $1 million from Cardone Enterprises; $1 million from Universal Peace; a whopping $2.5 million from Triller Legends.
Clearly, Trump has made peace with the idea of giving speeches for money. While Trump isn’t speaking with the frequency of Clinton, he is speaking for more money per engagement than Clinton who, according to Trump, was “crooked” for flexing her government credentials to earn income for speaking. Now, I don’t necessarily think Trump or Clinton is crooked for capitalizing on their public demand. I do think it’s worth paying attention to who is willing to pay such high sums to hear former government officials speak. I think the money and the speeches are indicative of a problem in America, that being corporate influence over political decision making, but that’s another issue entirely. The issue at stake here is that Trump has a hypocritical streak.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.