By Susan Milligan and Matt Negrin, Globe Staff and Globe correspondent
WASHINGTON -- Hillary and Bill Clinton earned more than $109 million in the last eight years, with the vast majority coming from the former president's book royalties and speaking fees, according to long-awaited tax returns released by her presidential campaign today.
The documents -- the most detailed financial information the Clintons have made public since leaving the White House and Hillary Clinton entered the US Senate -- paint a picture of a prominent political couple whose personal financial fortunes grew exponentially since the former president left the public sector. After earning $357,629 in 2000 -- Clinton's last year in the White House and Hillary Clinton's first year campaigning for public office herself -- the couple's combined income topped $20.4 million last year, according to the actual returns for 2000 to 2006 and estimates for 2007.
Over the eight years, the Clintons paid nearly $34 million in federal taxes and gave more than $10 million to charity.
"Wow!'' said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. The $3 million the couple contributed to charity last year "would be a lifetime of income for most people,'' who earn an average of $30,000 annually, he said.
Jay Carson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, noted that the couple has been generous with its new wealth, giving away nearly 10 percent of their income. Further, he said, the Clintons' tax burden was much higher than the typical wealthy taxpayer.
Over the last eight years, the couple was hit with a tax bill averaging about 31 percent of the political couple's adjusted gross income, compared to the average 21 percent paid by taxpayers earning more than $10 million in 2005, Carson said.
Senator Clinton, who is locked in a tight race with Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, was under heavy pressure to release her tax returns, especially after she lent her own campaign $5 million in January to shore up her cash account.
For months, Clinton had said she would release her returns after she became the nominee, but as that prospect appeared less certain, she pledged to make them public before the April 15 filing deadline. Obama posted his returns for 2000 to 2006 online last week and challenged Clinton to do the same, saying that voters deserved to know where the Clintons were getting their money.
Clinton posted her returns for those same years on her campaign website after 4 p.m. today, a common tactic by politicians who hope that scrutiny will be diminished if complicated material is kept under wraps until late afternoon on a Friday.
And despite her pledge, it's not certain when she will release her 2007 return. The Clintons have asked for an extension to file their 2007 return because they are still awaiting details of other income, including on investments made by trustees of their blind trust, he said. Carson said the couple will not have to pay more than the $5.1 million tax payment they have already sent to the IRS for their 2007 earnings.
Carson said in a statement that "the Clintons have now made public thirty years of tax returns, a record matched by few people in public service. None of Hillary Clinton's presidential opponents have revealed anything close to this amount of personal financial information.''
Being a freshman senator has been less lucrative for Obama, who earned a total of $3.9 million from 2000 to 2006.
Obama also paid far less in taxes -- $1.1 million -- and gave away far less in charitable donations -- less than $150,000 -- than the former first couple did during the same period.
Obama also has yet to release his 2007 tax returns, but has pledged to do so later this month.
Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has not released his own tax returns for the past several years, drawing criticism from Democrats who say McCain is not living up to his image as a leader on congressional ethics.
"As a self-professed champion of disclosure and ethics, John McCain should explain why for the past 26 years he has not seen fit to provide this important financial information to voters,'' Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney said in a statement. "Presidential candidates have disclosed several years worth of returns for decades, John McCain stands as a disturbing exception."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.