America’s Princess

The vast and recently acquired wealth of erstwhile president Bill Clinton and aspiring president (or inevitable ruler, whatever) Hillary Clinton is pretty well known. Facing huge legal bills when the 42nd president left office in 2001, the two of them went to work, strategically leveraging their experience and connections to finally earn some big money. They both got millions in advances for their books and they charge speaking fees equivalent to what the average surgeon or law partner earns in a year.

But then, it’s usually to speak to the sort of institutions that can afford it. They chat at major universities, conferences of well-heeled professional, and some of the world’s fanciest and lucratively funded nonprofits. Plus, they’re actually kind of worth it. Featured lunch speakers tend to be boring and repetitive. The Clintons are different. They’ve got enough experience and have met enough people that their speeches are usually entertaining and often fairly inspiring. There’s a reason they got here, after all; they’re very charming.

And so the University of Missouri at Kansas City thought it made sense to bring in Mrs. Clinton to speak at a luncheon to open its women’s hall of fame. Except she wanted $275,000. Luckily there was a solution very, very close. From a piece in the Washington Post:

Chelsea

So the school booked the next best option: her daughter, Chelsea.

The university paid $65,000 for Chelsea Clinton’s brief appearance Feb. 24, 2014, a demonstration of the celebrity appeal and marketability that the former and possibly second-time first daughter employs on behalf of her mother’s presidential campaign and family’s global charitable empire.

More than 500 pages of e-mails, contracts and other internal documents obtained by The Washington Post… show the meticulous efforts by Chelsea Clinton’s image-makers to exert tight control over the visit, ranging from close editing of marketing materials and the introductory remarks of a high school student to limits on the amount of time she spent on campus.

Well, I would expect nothing less. If there’s one thing this family has learned, it’s to be very, very careful about its image. At this point they barely have private lives at all. Of course they want to manage their public image.

If you can’t get the queen, the crown princess will work just fine.

And there’s nothing wrong with this. The university saved more than $100,000 with Chelsea. That’s a good financial decision.

But this is the reason that many conservatives get so uncomfortable with the perma-leadership of this family. It’s not just that they’re good politicians and policymakers; their fame extends beyond this into places that that have nothing to do with achievement. Their daughter can fill in in a pinch not because she has some similar level of achievement and expertise, but just because, like royalty, mere family is exciting enough to the public.

Like with Hillary Clinton’s speaking fee, money that Chelsea receives from addressing academic institutions doesn’t actually go to her personally; the money gets shoveled over into the Clinton Foundation.

At least we’re not hiring Chelsea’s husband out to be a keynote speaker anywhere. Not yet. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer