Santa Clara, California – When Hillary Clinton arrives in Silicon Valley this week to give her latest speech, the likely presidential candidate will be among friends.
Clinton will serve as the keynote speaker Tuesday at a conference sponsored by a series of major companies that have donated to her political campaigns or her family’s foundation, helped pay her hefty speaking fees at other events and lobbied her when she served as secretary of state. Some of their employees have been involved in her campaigns or initiatives at the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Many have multiple ties to the Clintons.
Cisco, a California networking equipment company, donated thousands of dollars to Clinton through its political action committee, and its general counsel served as a bundler and a policy adviser for her 2008 presidential campaign. Ericsson, a Swedish communications company, donated between $50,000 and $100,000 to the foundation, and its president participated in a group discussion at the related Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting last year. Morgan Stanley, a New York investment firm that’s Clinton’s sixth largest donor, spent at least $14 million lobbying the federal government, including the State Department, during her term on issues related to China, India and currency-exchange oversight, according to public records.
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This is not unusual.
Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been part of American politics since the 1970s, collecting myriad connections to major businesses and organizations across the nation and the world.
“Anytime there is a dynastic family, those connections can run very deep, with relationships built over decades,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics.
Krumholz said it wasn’t rare for those relationships to evolve over time or for individuals or organizations to take on multiple roles when a family had been in the spotlight for so long.
For example, Tom Nides, a deputy secretary of state under Clinton, rejoined Morgan Stanley as vice chairman after he left the administration.
Bruce Cain, a political science professor at Stanford University, said that if candidates had been in politics “forever” – no matter the party – they were bound to have similar connections.
“We’re going to be able to say that about the front-runner in both parties,” he said.
The conference sponsors and their employees will be some of the same ones Clinton will count on for money and support if she runs for president again – and the same ones that could lead to questions about conflicts of interests.
“Deals and gifts inspire gratitude,” Krumholz said.
Clinton has raised $329 million in her campaigns for Senate and president, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, while her family foundation has raised nearly $2 billion in the last 10 years, according to an analysis of the organization’s annual reports. Those numbers don’t include her husband’s fundraising as Arkansas governor or president.
Since she stepped down as the nation’s top diplomat in 2013, Clinton has given dozens of speeches, some drawing paychecks of as much as $200,000 to $300,000.
Many of them have been closed to the public, taking place in front of business-friendly groups, including trade associations or lobbying organizations. Fees for most are unknown.
It’s unclear how much she has earned from her speeches, but a review of published reports indicates she’s likely made at least $5.3 million, using $200,000 as a baseline for the known speeches.
Hillary Clinton, 67, is already the presumed front-runner for her party’s presidential nomination, though she continues to be dogged by complaints about her high-priced speeches and ties to Wall Street. She’s been accused of appearing out of touch.
She’s kept a low profile in recent months while Republican potential rivals are visiting the early-voting states of New Hampshire and Iowa.
Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, accused Clinton of only coming “out of hiding for another hefty speaking fee.”
Clinton’s speech Tuesday at the Santa Clara Convention Center is designed to boost the number of female leaders. Her spokesman and conference officials didn’t say how much she’s being paid.
There’ll be dozens of speakers, mostly women, at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women, organized by a 20-year-old group of executive women in the San Francisco Bay Area. Clinton will serve as the keynote speaker.
“I’m a huge fan of hers and I’m excited that she’s been able to fit us into her schedule,” Watermark CEO Marlene Williamson said. “She’s had a remarkable life, a remarkable career . . . and there’s a lot of speculation about what’s around the corner for Hillary on a personal level, and so there’s a lot of anticipation and interest in her opinions on a variety of topics.”
Watermark sponsors receive a level of marketing consistent with the amount of money they give to the conference, but they aren’t provided special access to the speakers, Williamson said.
Other sponsors include Ernst & Young, a contributor to Clinton’s 2008 campaign and foundation, whose vice president served on the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership led by Clinton; Johnson & Johnson, part of a public-private partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development launched by Clinton; UPS, which contributed between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton foundation and helped pay for leadership training programs for girls; and EMC Corp. and Intel Corp., which sponsored conferences that Clinton headlined.
Clinton is scheduled to deliver a handful of speeches in the next month organized by the New York and New Jersey chapter of the American Camp Association, the Robin Toner Program in Political Reporting and Emily’s List, which supports Democratic women who favor abortion rights. She recently signed on to be the keynote speaker at a United Nations meeting on women’s rights next month.
CORRECTION: An earlier version wrongly said Morgan Stanley had spent $14 million to lobby the State Department. It spent that amount to lobby the entire federal government.
Marissa Horn and Greg Gordon contributed to this article.