WASHINGTON — They are two of the most in-demand voices in Democratic politics. One is likely to run for president, the other is being aggressively encouraged to do so. Each inspires legions of adoring fans.
But for the time being, there is a huge disparity in what it costs to attract either political superstar to your event.
Want to hear Hillary Rodham Clinton? That’ll be at least $250,000 per speech, plus a list of other demands. Eager to book Elizabeth Warren? She won’t — in most cases can’t — even ask you to reimburse her cab fare.
Owing to Senate ethics rules that bind Warren, and a powerful biography that elevates Clinton, the differences in costs — for universities, business associations, and others — to hear from each prominent politician is stark.
Clinton has been under scrutiny for giving dozens of speeches, including some at public colleges and universities, and charging at least $200,000 for each.
She has earned at least $12 million since leaving public office in February 2013, according to a Bloomberg News estimate. The speaking fees are so exorbitant — and the wealth so great — that some Democrats have been worried about Republican attacks on Clinton that would mirror those that Democrats used to tag Mitt Romney as out of touch during the 2012 presidential campaign.
At the same time, fervor for a Warren candidacy has grown. And while any comparison between her speaking fees and Clinton’s is an imperfect one, it does provide clues to their differing styles and career paths.
As a US senator, Warren is prohibited from taking speaking fees. She is allowed to ask for a $2,000 charitable donation, but she hasn’t reported doing so.
She could also ask for groups to pay for her travel, but instead she uses her campaign accounts. Since becoming senator in 2013, she has reported spending nearly $40,000 for all of her travel.
That includes a $201 charge at a DoubleTree in Cleveland, $254 at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago, and two stays at the W Hotel in New York, with a tab each time of about $430.
When Clinton was in the Senate, she listed dozens of paid speeches given by her husband — though she, like Warren is now, was bound by rules restricting what she could accept. But she frequently allowed groups to pay for her travel, reporting nearly $80,000 from 40 trips.
Those trips ranged from Tufts University paying $880 for her to travel to Boston for a lecture in 2004, to $10,687 for a trip to Germany to accept an award and give a speech in 2005.
Before Warren became a US senator, she almost never took fees for the speeches she gave, according to a review of the federal disclosure statements she has filed since 2008. She occasionally submitted for reimbursements, but rarely requested more than the cab ride to and from the airport.
In 2008, when she met with the American Bankruptcy Institute, she was paid $582.83 for meals, taxis, and roundtrip airfare to Champaign, Ill. When she spoke before AARP a few months later, she was reimbursed $1,256.86 for airfare, meals, and taxis. In 2008, when Warren gave a speech at Georgetown University, she was reimbursed a grand sum of $128, for taxi rides in Washington and Boston.
One of the only measures of excess was a limo service to a speech at the University of Maryland. But the limo ride was from an Amtrak station. And dinner and all other reimbursements totaled $225.94.
When Emory University flew her to Atlanta for an award dinner in 2009, it cost the school $396. It cost the University of Iowa $745 — for air travel and hotel expenses — to have her at their conference in Iowa City, and it cost the American Constitution Society $701 to have her at theirs in Washington.
Warren, increasingly sensitive about the comparisons with Clinton, declined to comment. A Clinton spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Warren was never first lady or secretary of state — and, in fact, didn’t enter elected office until 2012. She has never been in a position to earn the kinds of speaking fees Clinton is now accepting.
Warren also has not lived a pauper’s life. She has been criticized in the past for her large Harvard salary, and for taking large payments for outside legal work. She is still earning royalty payments for past books, and reported a $525,000 advance for her book, “A Fighting Chance.”
Based on news accounts, speaking fees vary widely for politicians. Former president George W. Bush has taken in as much as $150,000 per speech. Mitt Romney earned $68,000 for a speech before the International Franchise Association in 2011, while Scott Brown last year took in $20,000 for a speech before the Royal Bank of Scotland in London.
So how much could Warren earn if she wasn’t bound by Senate rules? According to several experts, the range would start at $50,000, and could go much higher.
“She could easily make $100,000 to $150,000 per speech,” said Nick Morgan, a communications coach who has helped prepare political and education leaders for the speaking circuit. “There’s no question.”