Bill Clinton is a multimillionaire, but you’re paying for the Cinemax in his office.
That’s just one eyebrow-raising expense a former occupant of the White House has been allowed to put on the taxpayer tab every year, even though every living ex-president is quite wealthy.
In an attempt to shed light on this little-known perk of being a former commander in chief, The Daily Caller — through a Freedom of Information Act request filed last year — has obtained thousands of pages of emails and documents from the government detailing how taxpayer money is spent on former presidents each year.
The documents obtained from the General Services Administration — the agency that oversees taxpayer funding for former presidents — are from fiscal year 2011.
Like other former presidents, Clinton — the still-popular Democrat who was recently named “Father of the Year” by The National Father’s Day Council — used the nearly $1 million dollars allocated to him from the government to cover post-presidency expenses like personnel, travel, rent and postage. (RELATED: John Edwards won “Father of the Year” award from same group in 2007)
Clinton also used the funds to wire at least 10 televisions in his offices to a premium suite of content from DirecTV, according to a February 2011 statement. That year, taxpayers spent $184.26 a month for Clinton’s DVR service, 145 “Office Choice” channels and 32 high-definition “Entertainment Unlimited” channels.
President Clinton’s February 2011 DirecTV statement:
That entertainment package, according to DirecTV’s website, includes premium channels like Cinemax, HBO and Showtime. Cinemax, for example, plays hit movies like “Aliens” and “50 First Dates,” according to a recent listing.
Late at night, the premium channel earns its “Skinemax” nickname with a turn toward adult programming, offering shows titles like “Busty Coeds Vs. Lusty Cheerleaders,” “Sex Games Cancun 01: Last Temptation of Hank” and “Hotel Erotica Feature 05: Bedroom Fantasies 2.”
But Clinton — whose office didn’t respond to TheDC’s multiple inquiries by phone and email to explain why taxpayers should cover movie channels for him at work — isn’t the only ex-president who took advantage of the $3.7 million in taxpayer dollars in fiscal year 2011.
That year, according to the documents, taxpayers provided $517,000 for former President Jimmy Carter, $835,000 for George H.W. Bush and $1.3 million for George W. Bush in government funding. About $14,000 was also given to the still-living widows of former presidents.
Those figures do not include the cost of Secret Service protection, which all former presidents and their spouses are now guaranteed to have for the rest of their lives, thanks to legislation signed into law last week by President Barack Obama. (RELATED: Obama restores lifetime federal protection for ex-presidents)
Carter also billed taxpayers for satellite television to be pumped into his Atlanta, Georgia offices. The former peanut farmer used a much more scaled-back service plan from Dish Network Corp. that provided at least two televisions with $646.57 worth of programming in 2011 — no Cinemax in that package.
Additionally, Clinton and Carter’s offices both use taxpayer funds to pay for subscriptions to The New York Times. Carter received the paper version in 2011 — running a bill of $415.58 — and Clinton dropped $322.40 on a digital subscription.
The documents obtained from the GSA do not indicate whether either Bush charged his TV bill or newspaper subscription to taxpayers. TheDC has submitted a fresh request for the information.
Dan Cruz, deputy press secretary for GSA, told TheDC via email that these expenses are consistent with current law.
“By law, the General Services Administration is responsible for providing former U.S. Presidents with office allowances,” wrote Cruz. “Each of these offices determines which services they need, and the General Services Administration pays allowable expenses and services under the law.”
That law is known as the Former President’s Act, and ex-presidents and their widows have received taxpayer funding since its passage in 1958, spurred on by Harry Truman’s exceptionally destitute post-presidency.
On Capitol Hill, some are hoping to stop this sort of government spending, considering how lucrative life can be now for ex-presidents.
Jason Chaffetz, a Republican congressman from Utah, is pushing legislation — called the “Presidential Allowance Modernization Act” — that would eliminate a dollar of taxpayer funding for every dollar an ex-president earns over $400,000 a year.
“Nobody wants our former presidents living the remainder of their lives destitute,” Chaffetz said in February, announcing the bill. “But the fact is none of our former presidents are poor.”
Indeed, George W. Bush earned an estimated $15 million in speaking fees from the time he left office through May of 2011.
By July of 2012, Clinton had made approximately $89 million from paid speeches in his post-presidency.
George H.W. Bush was worth around $23 million in 2011, earned through his years in business and investments.