Saturday, April 05, 2008

Wealth And Politics
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton released tax data Friday showing they earned $109 million over the last eight years, an ascent into the uppermost tier of American taxpayers that seemed unimaginable in 2001, when they left the White House with little money and facing millions in legal bills.
In his book, Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, David Rothkopf notes that one of the quickest ways to fabulous wealth is to serve in government, and that Presidents, by dint of their international connections, are poised to become immensely wealthy.

Hey, you didn't really think Obama or McCain, nevermind Clinton, were running because they wanted to do good, did you?

But something odd about the Clinton's wealth should be stressed:
The bulk of their wealth has come from speaking and book-writing, which together account for almost $92 million, including a $15 million advance — larger than previously thought — from Mr. Clinton’s 2004 autobiography, “My Life.” The former president’s vigorous lecture schedule, where his speeches command upwards of $250,000, brought in almost $52 million.
(emphasis added)

Most former government officials sign on with boards of directors of multinational corporations to achieve this kind of wealth. Indeed, it is a testament to President Clinton's popular appeal and his moral fiber that he hadn't accepted the kind of cheap wealth that his predecessor had, and successor likely will.

Like his Vice President Al Gore, Bill Clinton could easily have sat on any number of boards of directors for companies as diverse as Wal-Mart, Citigroup (Robert Rubin, his Treasury Secretary, once served there ex-administration), the Red Cross, and MicroSoft (as a thank you for his help in keeping Bill Gates from off-shoring his entire company).

But he didn't. He decided to try to leverage his popularity and more important, his Rolodex into something positive: The William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, and as its centerpiece, the Clinton Global Initiative, a kind of "Davos That Does" in that Clinton doesn't just ask his participants to indulge in rhetoric, but to make concrete valuable pledges of resources to tackle the world's problems.

Being a rich ex-President is not a sin. Wasting that power and influence is. It's nice to see that the Clintons not only made it, made it big, but didn't forget where they came from or whom to help.