Ex-presidents accepting exorbitant fees for speeches from corporations is a conflict of interest that hurts democracy, theorizes Josh Barro of Business Insider. His point is that presidents will go easier on such entities during their time in office, expecting an easy payday after their terms. The argument that previous presidents have done so before Obama doesn’t hold much sway, believes Barro. Just because they set a low standard in avoiding conflicts of interest doesn’t justify this practice. Barro proposes that Obama abstain from collecting such fees in order to start a trend that would strengthen American democracy.
Obama accepting a fee for giving a speech is not just acceptable, it’s part of a tradition that several presidents before him have taken part in, writes Slate’s Daniel Gross. He infers that the demand for Obama, a highly popular ex-president with acclaimed oratory skills, allows him to demand such fees. He stresses that Obama was hard on the finance industry and didn’t give Cantor Fitzgerald, the investment firm in question, any preferential treatment. Gross asserts that if conflicts of interest are the issue, there are far more flagrant examples of it than an ex-public official being paid for a service he provides.