This is what happened when two speaking series booked Bill Clinton in 2002

Former President Bill Clinton.
(Image credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have come under heavy criticism for their unusually high speaking fees, and perhaps no example quite exemplifies the absurd maneuvering required to arrange such engagements as two separate speaker series the former president committed to in California in 2002. In addition to a $1,400 bill for a day's worth of phone calls from San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel, Clinton also ran up a $700 dinner bill for two. What's more, his contract insisted a private plane transport him from San Francisco to his speaking event at the University of California at Davis — a distance of only 70 miles.

"That is the one and only time" such a demand had been made, said Jeremy Ganter, the director of programming at the Mondavi Center, which hosted the event at UC Davis.

The contracts and internal emails exchanged while securing Clinton as a speaker were made public thanks to an open-records request filed by the Republican National Committee, which has added its own scrutiny to the fees as Hillary Clinton runs for president; the records revealed that the former president's aides vetted questions before they were asked of him. "We wish we never had to give in to that. He is the only person I can think of that required it. It has never happened before or since," said Richard Henning, the speaking series manager for Foothill-De Anza Community College District, which hosted the other of Clinton's Bay Area speeches in 2002.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

But that's not all the emails revealed: There was also a racist remark made by one of the speaking series organizers during negotiations with Team Clinton, in addition to the organizer's comments that the male aides who traveled with Clinton were "mistresses." Still, "the Harry Walker Agency, which [represents] Bill and Hillary Clinton, did not let any of [the organizer's questionable behavior] interfere with closing a deal," The Los Angeles Times noted. Read about the entire ordeal, here.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.