Chelsea Clinton, left, answered questions posed by former Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes during a paid appearance last year at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. (David Eulitt/The Kansas City Star)
When the University of Missouri at Kansas City was looking for a celebrity speaker to headline its gala luncheon marking the opening of a women’s hall of fame, one of the names that came to mind was Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But when the former secretary of state’s representatives quoted a fee of $275,000, officials at the public university balked. “Yikes!” one e-mailed another.
So the school booked the next best option: her daughter, Chelsea.
The university paid $65,000 for Chelsea Clinton’s brief appearance Feb. 24, 2014, a demonstration of the celebrity appeal and marketability that the former and possibly second-time first daughter employs on behalf of her mother’s presidential campaign and family’s global charitable empire.
More than 500 pages of e-mails, contracts and other internal documents obtained by The Washington Post from the university under Missouri public record laws detail the school’s long courtship of the Clintons.
Chelsea Clinton, second from left, appears with her parents and husband, Marc Mezvinsky, at mother Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign kick-off rally June 13 in New York City. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
They also show the meticulous efforts by Chelsea Clinton’s image-makers to exert tight control over the visit, ranging from close
editing of marketing materials and the introductory remarks of a high school student to limits on the amount of time she spent on campus.
The schedule she negotiated called for her to speak for 10 minutes, participate in a 20-minute, moderated question-and-answer session and spend a half-hour posing for pictures with VIPs offstage.
As with Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches at universities. Chelsea Clinton made no personal income from the appearance, her spokesman said, and directed her fee to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
“Chelsea is grateful to have the opportunity to speak at events like this while also supporting the work of the Clinton Foundation,” said the spokesman, Kamyl Bazbaz. He said she was happy to “celebrate the legacy of women in their community.”
The e-mails show that the university initially inquired about Chelsea Clinton but her speaking agency indicated she was unlikely to do the speech. At that point, a university vice chancellor urged organizers to “shoot for the moon” and pursue the former secretary of state, who proved too expensive.
So the university turned back to others, eventually choosing Chelsea Clinton when the agency indicated she was willing. Just shy of her 34th birthday, Clinton commanded a higher fee than other prominent women speakers who were considered, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem ($30,000) and journalists Cokie Roberts ($40,000), Tina Brown ($50,000) and Lesley Stahl ($50,000), the records show.