Former President George W. Bush charged a veterans’ group, Helping a Hero, $100,000 to speak at an event held in 2012. His wife, former First Lady Laura Bush received $50,000, and they were flown there in a private jet which cost another $20,000. All told, the charity spent $170,000 to have Bush speak at their event.
Some in the organization aren’t happy about the expenditure. Helping a Hero works to construct housing for severely wounded veterans of the “war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan, both conflicts that Bush was responsible for. Some within the organization think that it was offensive for Bush to charge for such a speech, especially after they were wounded serving under him. It’s especially upsetting when compared to other former presidents who, while making a solid living off the speaking circuit after they’re terms, don’t generally charge veterans’ groups.
Bill Clinton has never charged veterans, George H.W. Bush had some events underwritten to cover costs for the charities, and Jimmy Carter donates honorariums to the Carter Center.
The charity has justified the expenditure in several ways. For one, they raised larger sums than normal when the Bushes came to speak, even after expenses. That’s a fair point, and big name speakers can bring in donations that otherwise might not appear, but they do greatly increase the cost of holding fundraisers in the first place. Those fees were paid for by the charity, but they were underwritten by a private donor, which certainly helps, but that was money that could have just as easily gone to their mission. The charity also claims that the Bushes charged substantially less than their normal speaking fees for the charity, which could be seen as generous of them, but not as generous as doing it for free.