A summer dominated by concern about Hillary Clinton’s wealth has given way to a more friendly autumn. But questions about her finances returned to the headlines Monday night, because of a paid speech she gave to a school in Las Vegas.
The keynote speech to the University of Las Vegas Foundation’s annual dinner became controversial in July when students said they wanted funds put towards student aid, instead of Clinton’s $225,000 speaking fee.
Republicans sought to revive the issue Monday, sending out an email to reporters slamming “Clinton's Nevada Pay Day.” Much of the local news coverage of the event included reference to the payment and the controversy. (Clinton donated the speaking fee to her family’s charitable foundation.)
So what did the university get for it’s money?
Clinton helped helped raise $350,000 (minus her $225,000 speaking fee) by selling out the event at the Bellagio, where tickets for the 900 guests went for up to $3,000. Here’s what else they got:
2016 flirtation: Anyone seeing Clinton speak is hoping for some insight on her 2016 plans, and she is usually happy to deliver.
In Las Vegas, there were new euphemisms for “that other thing,” as Clinton called a potential presidential run in Iowa.
Before beginning the Q&A portion of the event, moderator Brian Greenspun handed Clinton a pair of Nikes, which he made sure to point out were “running shoes.” Greenspun is the publisher of the Las Vegas Sun and a UNLV trustee, but before that he was Bill Clinton's college roommate.
Clinton herself addressed the topic too: “As I make my decision, part of what I will be thinking about is what do I want to do with the next years of my life? How do I want to spend my time?” she said, mentioning her new granddaughter.
Tough talk on Russia: When John McCain peered into the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s eyes, he saw, “a ‘K,’ a ‘G,’ and a ‘B.’” When Clinton did the same, she saw, “a cold-blooded former KGB agent,” she told Greenspun Monday night.
“His agenda is one that threatens American interests and we have to be smart about how we’re going to contest it,” she said.
Millennial love: Clinton has lately often been directing her messages to young people often. In Las Vegas, she warned that “many millennials are still struggling” to find jobs and said more needed to be done to bring down the cost of education so every young person gets a fair shot.
“Higher education shouldn’t be a privilege for those able to afford it. It should be an opportunity widely available for anybody with the talent, determination and ambition,” she said.
For-profit colleges: She slammed “fly-by-night for-profit schools” and predatory lenders that “exploit students.” The Obama administration has worked to rein in the schools, but comprehensive reform has been stalled in Congress.
Clinton has given many paid speeches, but the UNLV event became a flashpoint both because of the venue (the school had raised tuition recently) and because the details of her speaking contract were made public by the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The contract, which included unflattering details about her travel demands, led to a string of negative press coverage about other university speeches.
Also honored at the event was Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has spent more than almost anyone supporting Republican candidates in recent years. Clinton congratulated Adelson on his $7 million donation the university, and said she and the Republican donor had met backstage.
Adelson told Clinton that he wished he were the one asking the questions on stage, instead of Greenspun, she said. “We would have needed a boxing arena,” Clinton joked.
In the hour and a half Clinton spent on stage, she tread mostly on well-worn rhetorical territory she has explored in other speeches. Her quotes on Putin -- though not the sentiment -- appear new, as do her comments on private schools. Republican groups like America Rising have attacked Clinton by calculating the price-per-minute of some of speaking gigs. Las Vegas' speech would be about $2,500 per minute.
Earlier in the day, she attended a fundraiser at a different casino for Nevada Democrats organized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Updated to reflect updated fundraising numbers.