Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 14, 2014

Fact Check: Hillary claims Clintons dead broke when they left office

Hillary Clinton is walking the line between being remarkably successful and yet still in touch with the lives of ordinary people. The former secretary of state and potential 2016 presidential candidate has found herself trying to limit blowback to her claim that she and husband Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House.

She made the comment during an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer. Sawyer pressed Clinton on a reported haul of $5 million in speaking fees.

“You have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Clinton said. “We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education. It was not easy. Bill has worked really hard. And it’s been amazing to me. He’s worked very hard.”

Republicans called the claim laughable and the next day Clinton clarified, again on ABC, that she and Bill had done very well over the past 14 years.

“We have a life experience that is clearly different in very dramatic ways from many Americans,” Clinton said. “But we also have gone through some of the same challenges many people have.”

We wanted to take a closer look at Clinton’s claim of being “dead broke” when their time in the White House ended after December 2000.

The Clintons’ balance sheet

Clinton’s 2000 Senate financial disclosure form, via the Open Secrets website, provides a rough view of the balance between the couple’s assets and liabilities. These forms only show amounts in broad ranges — from $15,001 to $50,000, from $50,001 to $100,000 and so forth — but under any set of assumptions, the Clintons were in the red, a problem driven by Bill Clinton’s enormous legal bills.

Their highest possible assets totaled about $1.8 million, while their lowest possible debts were nearly $2.3 million. The most optimistic scenario left them in a hole of about $500,000.

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