George W. Bush charged wounded vets group $100k for speech

Did George W. Bush charge too much for speech?
Did George W. Bush charge too much for speech?

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    Did George W. Bush charge too much for speech?

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Did George W. Bush charge too much for speech? 02:25

Washington (CNN)Former President George W. Bush is under fire for charging $100,000 to speak to a group of veterans wounded in a pair of wars he started when he was in office, just the latest front in a political battle over speaking fees that has hit both sides of the aisle.

Members of the Texas-based Helping a Hero charity told ABC News that Bush charged $100,000 for his 2012 speech at a charity fundraiser for veterans who lost limbs in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. The former president was also given use of a private jet at a cost of $20,000 and former First Lady Laura Bush was paid $50,000 to speak to the group last year.
The fees infuriated one of the board members, who told CNN Wednesday that Bush should not have accepted any money.
"The point here is that a leader should not charge to speak on behalf of the men that he sent into combat, at any level, let alone the commander in chief," said Eddie Wright, a Marine who lost both his hands in a 2004 rocket attack in Fallujah, Iraq.
    Helping a Hero builds houses for wounded veterans. But Wright and others were involved in a legal battle last year accusing some of the group's leaders of siphoning money and forcing veterans' wives to sell beauty products. The criminal complaint and a defamation lawsuit filed in response were settled out of court, according to the Houston Chronicle.
    Following the reports, Helping a Hero issued a statement supporting Bush.
    "We are proud that President Bush attended the Helping a Hero Gala. The event raised unprecedented funds that are putting our nation's heroes into specially adapted homes throughout the United States. His presence was appreciated by the veterans and supporters of the organization," the group said in a statement.
    Workers from Helping a Hero did not immediately return other requests for comment Thursday. But Chuck Jenness, the group's chairman, lists Bush as a "close friend" and said the Bush speech grossed $3.2 million.
    Financial information for the group show it netted $2.45 million the year Bush spoke and $1 million the following year.
    A Bush spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday, but Bush touted his support for veterans two weeks ago at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event.
    "I've decided to dedicate the rest of my life to helping our vets, to helping those with whom I was honored to serve," Bush said at a June 24 event. "They face challenges really different from the battlefield. Some feel misunderstood or under-appreciated. To many desperately so."
    Republican contender Donald Trump -- who has been under fire himself for weeks for controversial immigration -- took a few swings at the former president on Twitter on Thursday in response to news reports.
    "You mean George Bush sends our soldiers into combat, they are severely wounded, and then he wants $120,000 to make a boring speech to them?" Trump wrote this morning.
    The group's chairwoman told ABC News that Bush reduced his fees from $250,000 to $100,000. But Bush's typical speaking fee was reported by Politico at being between $100,000 and $175,000.
    The group's lawyer deflected questions to Bush, but told ABC that Bush's appearance helped raise "an extra million dollars."
    Bush spokesman Freddy Ford told ABC: "President Bush has made helping veterans one of his highest priorities in his post presidency."
    Speaking fees for former presidents have always been touchy subjects.
    Former President Bill Clinton made more than $106 million on the lecture circuit, according to a 2013 CNN report. Since then, the former president and possible First Gentleman, has collected $500,000 for single speeches.
    Hillary Clinton came under fire last year, during the rollout of her book, after saying she was "dead broke" after departing the White House in 2001.