Some stories are reporting on how much Chelsea Clinton has been paid for her gig with NBC News. Politico reported that she was paid $600,000 annually when she accepted a special correspondent role in November 2011, and her contract was later changed to a month-to-month term to allow her and the network to cut ties quickly if Hillary Clinton runs for President. Another website calculated how much she had been paid for each minute she’s been on the air, and it’s a big number. For its part, NBC isn’t commenting.
If you were Chelsea Clinton, would you take such a deal? Of course you would! If the reported numbers are even close to accurate, it’s just too much money to turn down. You’d rationalize it as a chance to make your voice heard and offer your unique perspective, and maybe you’d feel you were even owed it because you’ve had to endure the spotlight. Why not make your family more comfortable? And if you’re even remotely considering a political career at some point in your future, why not add to your potential campaign nest egg, and try to increase your public visibility and Q rating at the same time?
Did NBC News get the raw end of the deal? I doubt it. I’m guessing they weren’t hiring Chelsea Clinton because she was likely to become the most hard-charging journalist in the NBC News stable or even the most deft reporter of feel-good features. Instead, they likely thought that hiring her would be seen by the vast network of Clinton supporters as doing a favor for a valued friend — and that perception could pay huge dividends in countless ways, whether it’s obtaining access to political or cultural figures or helping to get an important legislative initiative across the finish line on Capitol Hill.
It’s the way the game is played these days in Washington, D.C., where current and former politicians routinely become millionaires and members of their families benefit, too. Whether they are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches, or are offered sweetheart investment opportunities by admiring allies, or become expensive talking heads on the news networks, the class of former politicians often seem to be awash in cash. Is it any wonder that so many hard-working Americans, who cannot imagine what it would be like to make $600,000 a year for an occasional TV appearance, consider Washington, D.C. to be such a despicable and fundamentally corrupt place?