Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has expressed concern over former President Barack Obama pocketing a large payout to address a Wall Street firm. Throughout her career, Warren has been a vocal critic of the financial sector's influence on government.
On April 24, it was disclosed that Obama had booked a speaking slot with the firm Cantor Fitzgerald LP in September. He will be paid $400,000 for his appearance, the same amount that he made per year while in office and double what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton charged for her speeches to financial companies, for which she had been heavily criticized during the 2016 Democratic primary, Fox Business reports.
On April 27, Warren voiced her disapproval during an interview on SiriusXM radio.
"I was troubled by that," Warren said, according to ABC News.
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"One of the things I talk about... is the influence of money," Warren continued. "I describe it as a snake that slithers through Washington. And that it shows up in so many different ways here in Washington."
The Massachusetts lawmaker listed campaign contributions, hired lobbyists and consulting experts who are on a corporate payroll as examples of the financial sector influencing Washington D.C.
Also on April 27, Obama booked another $400,000 gig, agreeing to an interview with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in an event meant to advertise the television channel A&E Networks, the New York Post reports.
Obama is not the first retired president to leverage their celebrity for big paydays.
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Former President Bill Clinton charged an average $200,000 per speaking fee throughout the decade following his time in office. Former President George W. Bush booked speaking appearances that paid him up to $175,000. Former President Ronald Reagan racked up $2 million in speaking fees for appearances in Japan within a mere week of leaving the Oval Office on Jan. 20, 1989, according to The New York Times.
"Every president since I've been active in politics immediately got whacked for big speechifying," said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. "I can't remember it not happening. And they never look good."
Obama is fielding criticism for his paid speaking events even if there is precedent.
"Should we expect it?" said Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "Yes, we should because all former presidents do this. [Obama] went on the attack against Wall Street and new he's being fed by those same people he called 'fat cats.' It's more hypocritical than ironic."
Eric Schultz, spokesperson for Obama, has defended the former president's decision to pocket a check for speaking with Wall Street, asserting that he "will be true to his values, his vision and his record."
Schultz added that Obama had overseen the passage of the Dodd-Frank regulations on the financial sector despite having taken Wall Street donations.
"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 [Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt]," Schultz concluded.