Clintons' discolsed tax returns show more than $109m earned in the past eight years

Hillary and Bill Clinton earned $109 million over the past eight years, putting them into the top tier of American earners according to their tax returns which have just been released.

Nearly half of that money came from former president Bill Clinton's speaking engagement for companies that have lavished money on Hillary's campaign for the presidency.

The returns also reveal that the Clintons are in the top one-hundredth of 1 percent (about 14,500,) of all US taxpayers, a potentially awkward place for a presidential candidate to be at a time when the US economy is tipping into recession and tens of thousands of people are losing their homes and jobs.

As the tax returns were being made public Mrs Clinton said that if elected president she would create a cabinet-level post specifically to tackle poverty.

The Clintons were almost broke when they left the White House in 2001 with little money and millions in legal bills. But they earned $30 million from their best-selling books and the tax returns reveal that they pulled in another $15 million more through an investment partnership with the controversial California billionaire Ronald Burkle.

Mr Burkle is one of Hillary Clinton's top presidential campaign fund-raisers whose company Yucaipa Global Opportunities Fund has been involved in a number of controversies that have raised eyebrows. Hidden deep in the Clintons' tax forms is the information that Yucaipa paid Bill Clinton $15 million between 2003 and 2007.

Mr Burkle's payments provided the only real news in sheaf of documents released on Friday after sustained pressure on Mrs Clinton's campaign to release them.

The returns confirmed much of what was already known about the Clintons' wealth. Their combined income from speaking tours and books accounted for $92 million, most of it from Mr. Clinton’s 2004 autobiography, “My Life" and “Giving.” On the lecture circuit Mr Clinton earn up to $250,000 a time and these engagements earned him close to $52 million.

Mrs. Clinton has earned $10.5 million from her two largely ghost-written books, “Living History” and “It Takes a Village.”

Until yesterday the only details Hillary Clinton had provided about her husband's income from Mr Burkle was that he was paid "more than $1,000" a year from various business partnerships.

"Now that the Clintons have disclosed that the former president received from 250 to 500 times "more than $1,000" each year since 2002, the glaring question that remains unanswered is: What did he do for all this pocket change?" the political commentator Thomas B. Edsall asked on The Huffington Post.

Bill Clinton was reportedly deeply angered by a front page Wall Street Journal article last year, which laid out questionable business practices by Mr Burkle's company Yucaipa. Mr Clinton was embarrassed because the story, which was published on the very day that numerous heads of state and business leaders had gathered in New York to discuss funding the Clinton Global Initiative. The Journal article described plans to profit from spending millions of dollars buying up Catholic Church property.

Mr Burkle, a billionaire investor and supermarket magnate has invested money for the government of Dubai and acquired a controversial stake in a Chinese media company.

The tax returns also reveal that the Clintons paid $33.8 million in taxes while claiming $10.2 million in charitable tax relief. These contributions went to the Clinton family foundation, which has given away less than half of the money they have put into it. Most of that was last year, after Mrs. Clinton announced she was running for the White House.

On the campaign trail she has been repeatedly strapped for cash and at one stage announced that she had lent her campaign some $5 million to keep it afloat.

She released her tax information for seven years in the wake of a growing clamour to follow the lead of Barack Obama, who had already disclosed his own tax returns for the same period.

The Clinton campaign said that the couple had revealed all their income tax records since Mr. Clinton was governor of Arkansas. The republican John McCain has not released tax returns from previous years and Mr. Obama has not released his 2007 tax-return information.

“The Clintons have now made public 30 years of tax returns, a record matched by few people in public service,” said Jay Carson, a campaign spokesman. “None of Hillary Clinton’s presidential opponents have revealed anything close to this amount of personal financial information.”

The earlier Obama’s tax returns reveal that he and his wife, Michelle, earned some $1 million in income in 2006, mostly from his book deals. John McCain’s wife, Cindy, is an heiress to a beer distributorship fortune and is thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

In Grand Forks North Dakota on Friday, Mrs. Clinton said George Bush's tax cuts, favoured the rich before referring to her own affairs.

“Now don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against rich people,” she said. “As a matter of fact, my husband, much to my surprise and his, has made a lot of money since he left the White House, by doing what he loves doing most — talking to people. But we didn’t ask for George Bush’s tax cuts. We didn’t want them, and we didn’t need them.”

The last time the Clintons’ finances were made public was in 2000 and provides a clear look at his extraordinary earning power.

Mr. Clinton says he intends to dissolve his business relationship with Mr Burkle and Yucaipa if Hillary wins the nomination. Mr. Clinton is also involved with InfoUSA, a consumer database company run by his friend, Vinod Gupta. Beginning in 2003, he gave $3.3 million in consulting contracts to Mr. Clinton according to court records revealed in a shareholder lawsuit in which Mr. Gupta was accused of improperly spending company money on the Clintons.

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