(AFP) – Apr 5, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Tax returns released by former first couple Hillary and Bill Clinton revealed they earned 109 million dollars over eight years, and questions have been raised bout the sources of much of their wealth.
A day after Hillary Clinton's White House campaign posted the 221 pages of personal financial documents on her website, analysts and media focused on the 52 million dollars Bill Clinton earned for speaking engagements, pointing to links between those who hired him and donations to her current campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
Hillary Clinton's campaign on Saturday called the disclosure a sign of her transparency, after being pressed for weeks by rival Barack Obama to match his publication of his tax records.
The documents show the couple paid 33 million dollars in federal taxes over the period -- a relatively high 31-percent tax rate -- and donated 10 million dollars to charity.
"The Clintons have now made public 30 years of tax returns, a record matched by few people in public service," said Clinton spokesman Jay Carson in a statement.
"None of Hillary Clinton's presidential opponents have revealed anything close to this amount of personal financial information."
Usually aggressive in responding to rival campaign announcements, Obama's team made no comment about the Clintons' immense wealth.
But with the median US household income in 2006 just 48,200 dollars -- 0.3 percent of the Clintons' earnings that year -- the revelation could undermine her efforts to connect with average voters.
The Los Angeles Times pointed out that the amount the Clintons have claimed for maintaining their homes is greater than the 44,000 dollar average family income in Pennsylvania, the next important state to vote on the Democratic presidential nomination.
Such comparisons, coming as the country's economy sinks into likely recession and job losses mount, could prove a liability to the Clinton campaign.
On Friday night Clinton sought to soften the possible effect by criticizing President George W. Bushs's tax cuts, which are criticized for benefitting the wealth more than others.
"My husband much to my surprise and his has made a lot of money since he left the White House -- doing what he loves doing most, talking to people," she said at a campaign appearance in North Dakota.
"But we didn't ask for George Bush's tax cuts. We didn't want them and we didn't need them."
The income and tax documents released Friday show that since Bill Clinton left the White House in January 2001, after eight years pulling in less than 400,000 dollars a year, the couple earned 109,175,175 dollars, or 13.6 million each year.
In comparison, income for Senator Obama and his wife Michelle, who released their own tax documents on March 25, peaked in 2005 at 1.6 million dollars.
Only a small part of the Clintons' income came from her senate salary, his pension, and investments.
Both made large sums from books -- 10.5 million dollars for Senator Clinton, mainly from her autobiography "Living History;" and 29.5 million dollars for the former president's two books, including 23 million for the best-selling memoir "My Life."
By far the biggest source of income was the 52 million dollars from Bill Clinton's speaking engagements.
Exiting the White House seven years ago with reportedly 12 million dollars in debts for legal costs related to the Monica Lewinsky and other scandals, the former president immediately launched into speaking tours, earning sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single engagement. The newly released documents do not detail the sources of these payments.
But in 2005, he made 352 speeches -- averaging almost one a day -- and for two speeches in a single day in Canada, he pulled in 475,000 dollars.
Colombia said Saturday it had broken its contract with Clinton strategist Mark Penn, chief executive of public relations giant Burston-Marsteller Bogota hired in 2007 to promote the US-Colombia free trade pact now pending in the US Congress, which Clinton has been opposing.
The action came after Penn said he had made "an error in judgement" in meeting with Colombian ambassador to the United States Carolina Barco on March 31, and said he would not make the same mistake again.
"The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable," Bogota said in a statement on its website.
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