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Obama’s speaking deals: Former President makes $800K for two speeches

Tuesday - 02/05/2017 16:22
AS Donald Trump struggles through his first 100 days in office, Barack Obama is laughing all the way to the bank.
Former President Barack Obama pictured leaving a forum with youth leaders at the University of Chicago last month. Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP
Former President Barack Obama pictured leaving a forum with youth leaders at the University of Chicago last month. Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

Mr Obama is set to make $800,000, more than twice his annual Presidential salary, thanks to two lucrative public speaking deals.

Mr Obama received $400,000 for taking part in an event last week, where he met up with presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and appeared at the A&E Networks advertising upfront at a Midtown Manhattan

During the event, Mr Obama was asked how he handled frustrations during his time in the Oval Office and made a joke at his successor’s expense when he replied “for starters, by not having a Twitter account.”

He also revealed what life has been like since leaving the White House including learning how to the new coffee machine at his new house and that he still hasn’t driven a car on his own.

But that’s not his only lucrative deal he’s making, with Mr Obama set to pocket another $400,000 when he presents a speech in September, the New York Postreported.

The September health care event is sponsored by Wall Street bank Cantor Fitzgerald.

Mr Obama’s large speaking fees have raised eyebrows, mainly due to his previous criticisms of Wall Street banks.

He gave a series of speeches slammig the big banks during his time in office and in a 2009 60 Minutes interview said: “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street.”

Mr Obama made his first formal public appearance since leaving office at the University of Chicago last month. Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP
Mr Obama made his first formal public appearance since leaving office at the University of Chicago last month. Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP

But it’s not just speaking engagements keeping the former President busy.

Mr Obama famously holidayed on the Virgin Islands where he was pictured kitesurfing with Sir Richard Branson in February.

He and his wife Michelle have also been working on the Obama Foundation which aims to empower young people politically.

The couple have also signed a deal to publish their memoirs reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars.

Mr Obama returned to the public spotlight last week, addressing a University of Chicago forum where he discussed the need for greater civic engagement among young people.

FEE BACKLASH

The reported $400,000 figure is substantially higher than the $225,000 Hillary Clinton received in 2013, when last year’s presidential hopeful addressed a Goldman Sachs conference, one in a series of Wall Street speeches she delivered.

But Mr Obama has copped some backlash with senior democrat Elizabeth Warren warning she was troubled by the big ticket talk.

The Massachusetts Democrat said on SiriusXM’s Alter Family Politics program last week that she is concerned about the overall influence of money in politics.

Mr Obama, pictured during on holiday with British billionaire Richard Branson the coast of Moskito Island in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Picture: Jack Broadway/AFP
Mr Obama, pictured during on holiday with British billionaire Richard Branson the coast of Moskito Island in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Picture: Jack Broadway/AFPSource:AFP

“I describe it as a snake that slithers through Washington,” she said. “I think it ultimately threatens democracy.”

Former Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also slammed the large fee.

In an interview on CBS show This Week Sanders, a fierce Wall Street critic, said he found it unfortunate that Obama took on the engagement at a time when “people are frustrated with the power of Wall Street and big-money interests.”

Sanders’ distrust of politicians receiving what he considers exorbitant paycheques for speaking to major investment banks is well known.

He relentlessly criticised Ms Clinton for her speeches to Goldman Sachs when they were vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination last year.

Fox News host Meghan McCain called Mr Obama a “dirty capitalist” for agreeing to speak at the investment firm.

Writing in The Guardian, political columnist Jill Abramson said Mr Obama, who often touched on income inequality was now one of the 1 per cent thanks for his holidays with billionaires and high speaking fees.

Mr Obama takes a break from learning to kitesurf at Richard Branson’s Necker Island retreat in the British Virgin Islands in February. Picture: Jack Brockway/Getty Images
Caption

She also said this “kowtowing of senior Democrats to the billionaire class has left their party close to morally bankrupt.”

Mr Obama’s decision was also questioned in a New York Timeseditorial yesterday which labelled the move disheartening and said it showed the Democrats were out of touch.

“Is it a betrayal of that sentiment for the former president to have accepted a reported $400,000 to speak to a Wall Street firm? Perhaps not, but it is disheartening that a man whose historic candidacy was premised on a moral examination of politics now joins almost every modern president in cashing in,” the editorial reads.

Eric Shultz, a senior adviser to President Obama, dismissed the criticism.

In a statement, Mr Schultz said that Mr Obama accepted the invitation to speak at the September event because health care is “an issue of great importance to him.”

He added that Mr Obama implemented financial reforms even after taking money from Wall Street as a candidate in 2008.

He also said he would be true to his values and record “regardless of venue or sponsor” for his speeches.

“While he’ll continue to give speeches from time to time, he’ll spend most of his time writing his book and, as he said in Chicago this week, focusing his post-presidency work on training and elevating a new generation of political leaders in America.”

with the Associated Press

debra.killalea@news.com.au

Source: BBC News:

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