Barack Obama to John McCain: 'Cancer doesn't know what it's up against'
Barack Obama has drawn criticism for accepting an invitation to speak at a Wall Street conference for almost half a million dollars.
The former President will receive $400,000, equal to his annual pay as President, for a speech at Cantor Fitzgerald's healthcare conference as a keynote speaker in September.
Mr Obama's fee is nearly twice as much as Hillary Clinton has charged private companies for similar events.
The former President, who called bank CEO’s “fat cats” in the opening weeks of his administration, has come under fire for the Wall Street speech since reports first emerged earlier in the week.
Bernie Sanders has said he thinks it is “unfortunate” Mr Obama opted to receive the fee and argued the decision signifies the profound influence big business has on the political system.
“I think it just speaks to the power of Wall Street and the influence of big money in the political process,” the Democrat Vermont senator told Bloomberg.
“I think it’s unfortunate. President Obama is now a private citizen and he can do anything he wants to but I think it’s unfortunate. You have the former president of Goldman Sachs is now the chief financial advisor for President Trump, and then you have this, so I think it’s unfortunate”.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has also expressed her reservations, saying she was “troubled by” the speaking fee.
“I was troubled by that,” Warren said on SiriusXM's Alter Family Politics during an appearance to promote her new book.
“One of the things I talk about in the book is the influence of money. I describe it as a snake that slithers through Washington. And that it shows up in so many different ways here in Washington.”
Meghan McCain, a Fox News host, went a step further and called Mr Obama a “dirty capitalist” for agreeing to speak at the investment firm.
“The great irony is that Saint Obama, who is supposed to representing everything that is good and utopian on the left, is actually a dirty capitalist like the rest of us,” McCain, who is the daughter of Republican Senator John McCain, said.
While Mr Obama is said to have signed a contract for the event, the company is reported to be waiting to finalise arrangements with the Chicago native before making a formal announcement.
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Eric Schultz, senior advisor to President Obama, defended the President in a statement sent earlier in the week and challenged the notion hefty speaking fees compromise the former President’s principles.
“As we announced months ago, President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time,” he told The Independent. “Some of those speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid, and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision, and his record.
“He recently accepted an invitation to speak at a health care conference in September, because, as a President who successfully passed health insurance reform, it’s an issue of great importance to him. With regard to this or any speech involving Wall Street sponsors, I’d just point out that in 2008, Barack Obama raised more money from Wall Street than any candidate in history – and still went on to successfully pass and implement the toughest reforms on Wall Street since FDR.
“And while he’ll continue to give speeches from time to time, he’ll spend most of his time writing his book and, as he said in Chicago this week, focusing his post-presidency work on training and elevating a new generation of political leaders in America.”
Mr Obama, who left the White House almost 100 days ago, took to the stage in Chicago for his first public appearance since Donald Trump’s inauguration on Monday. Returning to the city he launched his political career in, he revealed his first post-White House project would focus on urging the next generation to become more politicised and civically engaged.