Fact check: Hillary Clinton says ‘every secretary of state that I know’ has been a paid speaker

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

During CNN’s Democratic town hall event in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton shrugged when asked why she accepted $675,000 from Wall Street investment giant Goldman Sachs to give three speeches in 2013.

“That’s what they offered,” Clinton said. “You know, every secretary of state that I know has done that.”

Well, yes and no.

In terms of delivering paid speeches, she’s right: Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright — the three secretaries of state before Clinton — and James Baker, who served under George H. W. Bush, have given paid speeches according to the Washington Speakers Bureau, the Alexandria, Va., booking agency that represents them.

Rice, who served as secretary of state from 2005 to 2009 under President George W. Bush, currently gives keynote presentations on foreign affairs, education and women’s empowerment according to her booking page, which includes testimonials from Prudential Retirement and the Business Council of Alabama.

Powell, who also served as secretary under W., is available for panel discussions and keynote addresses covering diplomacy and leadership.

“The power and passion of Gen. Colin Powell’s leadership was apparent in his discussion,” Dow Chemical said in its testimonial, “and his presence was an inspiring highlight of our meeting!”

Albright, who served as secretary from 1997 to 2001, discusses “her life and career as a young refugee who rose to become for a time the world’s most powerful woman,” as she did in this 2011 TED Talk.

In 2012, Albright, who endorsed Clinton in 2008, appeared with the then secretary on a panel at the inaugural Women in Public Service Institute at Wellesley College.

Like Powell, Baker is usually paid to discuss leadership and geopolitical topics “but is also willing to speak about a number of other issues, including religious faith, corporate governance and ethics [and] personal responsibility.”

Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, the only two other living former secretaries, are also on the paid-speaking circuit, though they appear less frequently (both men are in their 90s).

But in terms of what they’re paid, Clinton’s reported $200,000-plus speaking fee appears to be well above the rates her colleagues command. According to the Washington Speakers Bureau, Albright and Baker get “$40,001 and up” per engagement, while Rice and Powell’s fees “vary based on event location.” Richard Armitage, Powell’s deputy, is far less expensive, charging $25,000 to $40,000 per speech — airfare and ground transportation included.

And while plenty of the paid speeches the former secretaries have given were either streamed or have since been made public, the content of Clinton’s talks at Goldman Sachs has been a tightly guarded secret.

One of Clinton’s talks at Goldman Sachs was reported in the Oct. 30, 2013, issue of National Review:

“Last Thursday, Clinton spoke for the AIMS Alternative Investment Conference hosted by Goldman Sachs, a closed event exclusively for Goldman clients. AIMS is an annual conference that explores the latest strategies and products available to financial advisers. At the event, Clinton offered what one attendee described to me as ‘prepared remarks followed by questions.’ On Tuesday, Clinton spoke at the Builders and Innovators Summit, devoted to discussing entrepreneurship and how to help innovators expand and grow their businesses. According to Politico, Clinton conducted a question-and-answer session with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the subject of her remarks or why Mrs. Clinton in particular was invited to the events.”

At a campaign event last month, Clinton was asked by a reporter if she planned to make the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches public. She laughed off the question.