That Time The Clintons Ran Out Of Money

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In her interview with Diane Sawyer last night to plug her new book Hard Choices, Hillary claimed that she and Bill were “not only dead broke but in debt” when they moved out of the White House, and that the couple needed the millions of dollars they accrued in speaking fees to pay down those debts. Philip Bump fact-checks:

Clinton left the White House to head to the Capitol as New York’s junior senator in 2000, meaning that she had to file annual disclosures of how much she and her husband earned, owned, and owed. We took a look at those filings, via Open Secrets. And this is what the Clinton’s wealth looked like for the first four years after they left office in early 2001. We considered three things: what the Clintons reported as income on their taxes, what they reported as assets in Hillary Clinton’s mandated disclosures, and what was listed as being owed. The disclosures only give broad boundaries for the value of the assets owned, so the true value of their assets lies somewhere within the dark-red bar.

So, yes, it is technically true the Clintons left office in debt. But, a year later, the couple’s assets had soared. And, as was reported at the time, the Clintons’ debt was entirely gone by the end of 2004 — well before Hillary Clinton left the Senate and well before she left her position as secretary of state.

Indeed, Zeke Miller adds, by the time she left the Obama administration last year, Hillary was a wealthy woman even without her husband’s millions:

While the former first family’s precarious financial situation in 2001 was well known, the situation was very different when Clinton stepped down as Secretary of State in early 2013. She had reported on an government financial disclosure form assets in the millions, including between $5 million and $25 million in cash—meaning she left the State Department with at least $5 million in the bank, before her speaking gigs started and before she made millions more from her new book Hard Choices. Last year CNN calculated that the former President has taken in more than $106 million on the speaking circuit since leaving office in 2001. In fact, in their first year after leaving the White House, the Clintons earned a combined $16.1 million—the bulk of it coming from the former president’s speaking and author fees.

The inevitable walk-back arrived this morning:

“Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today,” Clinton said in a live interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I want to use the talents and resources I have to make sure people get the same chances.” Host Robin Roberts asked Clinton if she can understand why people are questioning why she’d describe her family’s finances as a struggle.

“Yes, I can, but everything in life has to be put into context. As I recall, we were something like in $12 million in debt,” said Clinton, adding that she soon entered the Senate and couldn’t do much to help reverse that at the time.