Clinton event tab exceeds proceeds
By J. Patrick Coolican
Seattle Times staff reporter
A charity fund-raiser for Seattle Hebrew Academy and two local arts groups, which brought former President Clinton to town, was a financial bust — though not for the 42nd president.
The September event at Marion McCaw Hall cost organizers $290,000 but brought in just $288,000, according to organizers — a shortfall of $2,000 sponsors blamed on sluggish ticket sales.
It's not known how much Clinton was paid, but he did charge for his Seattle appearance, according to his office. Neither his spokeswoman nor Foolproof Performing Arts, which produced the event, are talking about his fee. But in 2002, he charged no less than $100,000 for all but one of his speaking appearances, earning $9.5 million for the year, according to Sen. Hillary Clinton's personal financial disclosure form filed in May. When organizers realized they would have about 800 unsold tickets to the Sept. 16 event, they gave them away to community groups.
The Schultz Family Foundation, an event co-sponsor, salvaged the night for the Seattle Hebrew Academy — one of the three beneficiaries — by pledging $20,000 to the school beginning in 2004, according to the foundation.
The academy has raised $7 million of its $8.6 million goal to repair damage sustained during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.
But Clinton's visit made no money for either the Seattle Center Academy or Foolproof Performing Arts.
"There was a sense of history that night. But translating history into cold, hard cash is not always easy," said Marilyn Raichle, director of Foolproof, the event's main organizer.
Although it didn't raise money, the event gave many students a chance to see Clinton for free and raised awareness of Foolproof and its "American Voices" speaker series, Raichle said.
A Seattle Center Academy spokeswoman said the school was happy to get 120 free tickets for young people to hear Clinton, despite the fund-raising failure.
"Some events raise money, and some don't. That's just the way it works," the academy's Sherrie Boyer said.
Slow ticket sales were the biggest obstacle to breaking even, Raichle said. Foolproof sold 2,054 tickets, ranging from $35 to $2,500 for a private dinner with Clinton, who later spoke at the opera house for more than an hour about creating an integrated global community. That left hundreds of unsold tickets, which Foolproof gave away, mostly to students.
Raichle blamed competing events and said many people chose to give to the charities privately rather than attend the speech. The event also had significant expenses, however.
In addition to Clinton's undisclosed fee, production costs as well as advertising and catering each cost between $20,000 and $30,000; other money paid for transportation, stagehands and security, graphic design and printing, Raichle said.