Hillary Clinton speaking contracts: Emails reveal it takes lemon wedges, hummus and a $300,000 'special rate' for former First Lady to speak at US universities

Booking the presumptive front-runner for 2016 to speak takes time and lots of money

Click to follow

When officials at the University of California, Los Angeles, began negotiating a $300,000 (£190,000) speech appearance by Hillary Rodham Clinton, they had one request: could we get a reduced rate for public universities? The answer from Ms Clinton’s representatives: $300,000 is the “special university rate”.

That email exchange and other internal communications, obtained this week under the Freedom of Information Act, provide a rare glimpse into the complex efforts to manage the likely 2016 presidential candidate’s lucrative speaking career.

At UCLA, efforts to book Ms Clinton and then prepare for her visit were all-consuming, beginning almost immediately after she left her job as Secretary of State on 1 February last year, until she delivered her Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership speech in March. The documents show that Ms Clinton’s representatives at the Harry Walker Agency exerted considerable control over her appearance and managed even the smallest details – from requesting lemon wedges and water on stage to a computer, scanner, and a spread of hummus and crudité in the green room.

Top university officials discussed at length the style and colour of the executive armchairs Ms Clinton and moderator Lynn Vavreck would sit in as they carried on a question-and-answer session. Ms Clinton’s representatives requested that the chairs be outfitted with two long, rectangular pillows – and that two cushions be kept backstage in case the chair was too deep and she needed back support.


After a lengthy call with a Clinton representative, UCLA administrator Patricia Lippert reported to colleagues: “She uses a lavalier [microphone] and will both speak from the audience and walk around stage, TED talk-style. We need a teleprompter and 2-3 downstage scrolling monitors [for] her to read from.”

During a walkthrough of Royce Hall five days before the lecture, the emails show, Ms Clinton’s team rejected the podium, setting off a scramble to find a suitable podium and rent a new university seal to match.

In the nearly two years since stepping down as Secretary of State, Ms Clinton has made dozens of paid appearances across the country at industry conventions and Wall Street banks as well as at universities. Her UCLA fee, like those at other universities, went to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family’s non-profit group.

Hillary Clinton stepped down as Secretary of State last February (Getty Images)

But critics have argued that the carefully staged events and high speaking fees could complicate Ms Clinton’s ability to run a populist campaign built around the economic struggles of the middle class.

Versions of her speaking contracts have surfaced publicly this year – including luxury travel requirements – but they do not contain the extensive detail seen in the UCLA communications. It is unclear how personally involved Ms Clinton was in the negotiations. A Clinton spokesman declined to comment.

It is common for speakers to request special accommodations – and Ms Clinton was no exception. Her people asked for a case of still water, room temperature, to be left stage right. They also asked that “a carafe of warm/hot water, coffee cup and saucer, pitcher of room temperature water, water glass, and lemon wedges” be both on stage as well as in a room where Ms Clinton would stand for photos with VIPs. 

© Washington Post