University of Nevada, Las Vegas, student leaders on Friday sent a letter to Hillary Clinton’s family foundation asking that she “do what is right” and donate all or part of her $225,000 speaking fee for addressing the UNLV Foundation back to the university for student benefit.
Clinton, a former secretary of state and potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, has drawn critical headlines and comments after her speaking fee was reported Monday by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She typically draws about $200,000 for speaking engagements to private companies, but some critics objected to charging an education institution.
The letter, addressed to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation in New York, was written on behalf of 23,000 undergraduate UNLV students, represented by Student Body President Elias Benjelloun, who co-signed the letter.
The letter welcomed Clinton, saying students were excited she would speak at the UNLV Foundation annual fund raising dinner on Oct. 13. But the student leaders suggested it wouldn’t be right for her to accept the hefty fee.
“In keeping with Secretary Clinton’s long-standing history of advocating for students in higher education, we as student government leaders are asking that she charitably donate part or all of the $225,000 speaking fee she is reportedly making for this fund raising speech back to the UNLV Foundation as a whole,” the letter said.
The students said they understood the UNLV Foundation fee is being paid by private donations and is not coming from university or taxpayer funds, but they noted the money raised is supposed to help students and the school.
“Regardless of the source of the funds, we think it is important to speak on behalf of the thousands of students who benefit from the funds raised by the UNLV Foundation, and ask Secretary Clinton to do what is right: donate the money back to the UNLV Foundation and have it enrich thousands of students and faculty members on campus,” the letter said.
Benjelloun noted that tuition at Nevada’s in-state universities tripled in the past decade and was recently approved for another 17 percent increase over the next four years, making an education more expensive than ever.
The two-page letter also was co-signed by Daniel Waqar, UNLV public relations director for the student government.
There was no immediate comment from Clinton’s spokesman.
Clinton also was slammed Friday by the Republican National Committee, which noted that her UNLV speaking fee is “more than four times what the average Nevadan makes in a year.”
“With tuition rates set to spike by 17 percent at UNLV, it’s sad that Hillary Clinton thinks she’s so broke that it’s necessary to slap them with a $225,000 speaking fee,” said Jahan Wilcox, an RNC spokesman.
The annual UNLV Foundation dinner, held this year at the Bellagio, doesn’t come cheap.
The dinner is $200 per seat, but donors also can buy full tables for 10 at various contribution levels, including for $20,000, $10,000, $5,000 and $3,000. The top contribution of $20,000 gets an invitation to a chef’s reception and four photo sessions with Clinton and autographed copies of her book.
The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, following up on the UNLV flap, both reported Friday that Clinton had been paid $300,000 to speak to students and faculty at the University of California Los Angeles in March.
UCLA paid the fee through a private endowment set up for a lecture series and the money went to the Clintons’ family foundation — as it will in the case at UNLV. UCLA paid former President Bill Clinton $250,000 to speak in 2012.
The focus on Hillary Clinton’s finances and fees come under deeper scrutiny as she tours the country promoting her new book, “Hard Choices,” about her four years as President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state.
In interviews, Clinton has said she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House and she also noted that the couple are “not truly well off” compared to the ultra-rich. Her comments have drawn scorn from Republicans, who suggest she’s out of touch with regular Americans.
Mrs. Clinton’s fees also have increased scrutiny of her husband’s finances. On Friday, the Washington Post published a front page story headlined: “How the Clintons went from ‘dead broke’ to rich: Bill earned $104.9 million for speeches.” The story offered details on the fund-raising blitz the Clintons have been on since leaving the White House in 2001.
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