In the 13 months directly prior to kicking off his Republican presidential campaign in February 2007, Rudy Giuliani earned more than $11 million giving paid speeches. The former New York City mayor, who was thrust into the national and international spotlight after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, typically charged between $100,000 and $300,000 for his speeches and spoke more than 120 times.
According to one speaking contract published at the time, Giuliani required clients pay for meals and lodging for himself and four travel companions. Giuliani required a two-bedroom suite (with a king-sized bed) for his overnight stays; a suite preferably located on an upper floor with a balcony. Clients also had to pay for four additional rooms to house Giuliani's entourage.
As for travel, the contract stipulated that clients "should provide Mr. Giuliani with first class travel expenses for up to 5 people to include a private plane." What kind of private plane? "Please note that the private aircraft MUST BE a Gulfstream IV or bigger."
Note that along with the $11 million in speaking fees Giuliani pocketed in 2006, he also earned $8 million on the speech circuit in 2002. If Giuliani was able to average between $8 and $11 million in speaking fees from 2002 until he announced his candidacy in early 2007, he would have earned more than $40 million giving speeches in the five years prior to his White House campaign. (Speaking fees represented only part of his income.)
What's newsworthy about that today? Simply the fact that back in 2007 when a wealthy Republican became a presidential hopeful the Beltway press didn't care that he'd earned an eight-figure income giving 45-minute speeches. (With an additional 15 minutes allotted for Q & A.) Indeed, Giuliani's financial revelations barely registered with pundits and reporters who gave the information little time and attention. The Washington Post, for example, published just three mentions of Giuliani's multimillion-dollar "speaking fees."
The press certainly never elevated the issue to a defining narrative for the Republican's campaign. Perhaps they realized there was nothing intrinsically wrong with a speaker being paid what organizations are willing to offer them.
Compare that collective shoulder shrug with the nearly month-long media fascination still churning over Hillary Clinton's speaking fees; a fascination that's part of a larger, misguided media obsession over the issue of Clinton wealth. ("Speaking fee" articles and columns published by Post so far this year regarding Clinton? Twenty-eight.)
Even though the Republican hopeful in 13 months prior to his candidacy earned nearly twice as much money in speaking fees as Clinton has in the 16 months since stepping down as secretary of state, the press has universally agreed that Clinton's fee are not only newsworthy but deeply disturbing and that her family wealth poses a "a political liability."
Note to media: American history is filled with wealthy Democrats who have fought for income equality and on behalf of the working class. Based on her past performance, as a candidate Hillary Clinton would simply extend that tradition. And last time I checked, the Democratic Party platform doesn't discourage the accumulation of personal wealth. That's simply a media stereotype.
The other steadfast media angle in play has been that Clinton's speech-driven wealth means she's no longer "authentic" and that she's "out of touch" with everyday voters. But a recent poll thoroughly debunked that notion, so why does the lazy press keep pushing it?
When you examine the two sets of facts, the press treatment and the gaping media double standards in play for Giuliani and Clinton could not be more vivid: The D.C. press holds the Clintons, and Democrats, to a much tougher standard than they do Republican candidates.
Note that last week, appearing on Morning Joe, while hosts and guests all agreed that the Clinton speaking fees were a big problem for Hillary, NBC's Chuck Todd insisted the inflated paychecks looked unseemly [emphasis added]:
All of this book tour; all of these decisions to go out and basically make your post-presidential money before you run for -- before you actually are president? Which is really what's going [on]. Ex-presidents make money like this, not candidates before they run.
But what did Giuliani do in 2006? He went out and made big, "ex-president" speech money before he ran for president. But most pundits remained quiet.
And how about the Washington Post harping on the fact that Clinton received big speaking fees from college and universities and that it just looked bad. (Even though no student fees were used to pay Clinton and she donated the fees to charity.) Article after article from the Post has obsessed over that angle.
But guess what Giuliani did? He not only cashed a big university paycheck, paid for by student fees, but the Republican also demanded the school pay for his pricey travel.
From the Chicago Tribune, one of the few news organization that took a close look at Giuliani's speech earnings in 2007:
In one speech last year at Oklahoma State University, Giuliani requested and received travel on a private Gulfstream jet that cost the school $47,000 to operate. His visit essentially wiped out the student speakers annual fund.
By the way, if anyone thinks my description of the Post's Clinton speaking fees as having been obsessive represents an exaggeration, here's a sampling from Washingtonpost.com archives of recent headlines from the Clinton speech beat:
*"University at Buffalo paid $275,000 for Hillary Clinton speech"
*"At time of austerity, 8 universities spent top dollar on Hillary Rodham Clinton speeches"
*"Hillary Clinton's speaking fees are a drop in the Clinton Foundation's massive fundraising bucket"
*"Hillary Clinton paid $300,000 and Bill Clinton paid $250,000 for UCLA speeches"
*"Hillary Clinton says she donated all money from college speeches"
*"Chelsea Clinton speaking fees can reach $75,000"
*"Here's what Hillary Clinton's $225,000 speaking fee could buy on the campaign trail"
*"Ten questions about those donated speaking fees"
What did the Post's coverage of Giuliani's speaking fees look like in 2007? It looked liked this:
*"Disclosure Forms Show Wealthy Lot Of Hopefuls"
*"Giuliani to Seek Advice From FEC About Speaking Fees"
That, according to a Nexis search, captures most of the Post's coverage and commentary about Giuliani's $11 million earnings from speaking fees. You'll note in the first piece the Post didn't even publish a stand-alone article about the topic. Instead, the paper simply grouped Giuliani's speaking fees with the other candidates and detailed all their earnings. (The issue garnered three additional sentences of coverage is this Post article.)
As for the second article -- the only one the paper published devoted entirely to Giuliani's speeches -- the Post focused exclusively on any ethical issues raised by Giuliani continuing to give paid speeches after he had formed a presidential exploratory committee, not on whether he'd earned too much money, which is what the current Clinton coverage revolves around.
For Giuliani, being a Republican and cashing large checks for speaking fees was definitely not a political problem according to the Washington Post, and according to the rest of the Beltway press, which now on a weekly, and sometimes even daily, basis devotes time and space to harshly examining Hillary's earnings.
Crossposted at Media Matters.