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Why Do People Care How Much the Obamas Are Making for Speaking Engagements?

Last week, Barack and Michelle Obama returned to public life, making their first appearances at different events around the country.

The former President spoke at the University of Chicago where he discussed the lessons he learned as a community organizer in the city decades ago and how he wants to use his post-Presidency life to help the next generation of young leaders.

The former First Lady, who has a speaking fee of $200, 000, also spoke at her first event since leaving the White House. She attended the annual American Institute of Architects conference in Orlando last Thursday. She spoke about her Let Girls Learn initiative as well as life after the White House.

In light of these events, criticism has emerged on how much the Obamas are charging for their speaking fees. Some do not like the fact they’re charging six figures or that former President Obama will be speaking at a Wall Street conference on healthcare this fall and will be making $400, 000.

“I describe it [money] as a snake that slithers through Washington. And that it shows up in so many different ways here in Washington. People understand the money that goes into campaign contributions. And when I say ‘understand.’ I don’t mean they think it’s okay, but at least people see it.”

One of the most vocal detractors has been Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-M.A.).

“I was troubled by that,” said Warren, referring to the former President’s $400, 000 speaking fee, during an interview on the SiriusXM show “After Family Politics” on Radio Andy.

One of the things I talk about in the book [“This Fight is Our Fight”] 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. People understand the money that goes into campaign contributions. And when I say ‘understand.’ I don’t mean they think it’s okay, but at least people see it. The money that goes into hiring lobbyists, but it’s also the money that goes into bought-and-paid-for experts, the money that goes into think tanks that have these shadowy funders.”

“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.”

The former President’s spokesman, Eric Schultz, spoke to ABC News about Obama speaking at the Wall Street conference in the fall, saying, “As we announced months ago, President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time. 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.”

Schultz went on to say, “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.”

Along with speaking engagements, the Obamas other moves post-Presidency have included a $60 million-dollar book deal, planning the former President’s presidential center in Chicago and hiring representation at The Harry Walker Agency, the same agency which boasts Bill and Hillary Clinton as clients.

Every former President and First Lady does speaking engagements and, no, they don’t come cheap. We all know the Obamas are more than just a former First Family. They’re the FIRST Black First Family, and that is going to cost you, as it should. It could be argued the former President asking for $400, 000 and the former First Lady $200, 000 isn’t enough. They could ask for $1 million and would be well within their right to do so.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Scott Olson