Washington (CNN) – When it rains, it pours for Hillary Clinton.Students at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas are asking the former secretary of state to return the speaking fee she is set to collect when she appears at a university fundraiser in October.
The calls, which are gleefully being pushed by national and state Republicans, come at an inopportune time for Clinton, whose "Hard Choices" book tour has largely been defined by missteps she’s made regarding her wealth and steep speaking fees.
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The University of Nevada-Las Vegas announced this week that Clinton, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, would headline their annual fundraising dinner in this fall. The university is paying Clinton $225,000 for the appearance with money from "private donations secured by the UNLV foundation," according to a spokeswoman for the university who went on to say that no money from the school's operating budget will be used on the fee.
Even with that caveat, the news of Clinton's fee did not sit well with the university’s students, especially considering Nevada's higher education board decided to raise tuition by 17% earlier this month.
Elias Benjelloun, the UNLV student body president, and Daniel Waqar, the student government's public relations director, told Nevada political reporter John Ralston that the speaking fee is "a bit outrageous."
"We'd like Secretary Clinton, respectfully, to gracefully return the money to the university or the foundation," Waqar told Ralston on Thursday.
Pushing back against the controversy, a Clinton aide told CNN that the UNLV speaking fee would go to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, not to the former first lady directly.
This is not the first time Clinton has appeared at a university for a fee, but because Clinton recently made two noticeable slip-ups when answering questions about her wealth and speaking fees, Republicans are seizing on any news that continues the storyline.
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In March of 2003, Clinton spoke to the University of Los Angeles-California as part of a donor-sponsored speaker series.
The former secretary of state was paid $300,000 for that appearance, according to a spokesman for the college. At the time of the speech, an event organizer told CNN that Clinton was not being paid.
"No tuition dollars or public money were used for this fee," Jean-Paul Renaud told CNN on Friday. "Actually, the fee was a gift made to us specifically to attract people like Hillary Clinton."
Renaud also noted that the UCLA speaker series is funded by a gift from Meyer Luskin, a Los Angeles business man who requires that the money is used to bring in high profile speakers.
"We are bound to do such things with the gift," Renaud said.
A Clinton aide confirmed that the fee from the UCLA speech, too, went directly to the foundation.
Clinton also addressed the University of Miami in February. Donna Shalala, the university's president and a former Bill Clinton cabinet member, told reporters at the time that Clinton was being paid a "discounted" rate for the appearance.
When asked by the Wall Street Journal on Friday whether Clinton's speaking fee was close to $200,000, Shalala said "No, no, no, no, no, no" and confirmed that a private donor covered Clinton's fee.
A spokesman for Clinton did not comment on where the money from the Miami speech went.
Clinton's Republican critics have aggressively pushed the story as more proof that Clinton is paid too much to be in touch with average Americans. The attack line has turned into a narrative for Republicans who, from day one of Clinton's book tour, seized on the former first lady saying she and her husband were "dead broke" when they left the White House.
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"Hillary Clinton’s speaking fee at UNLV is more than 4 times what the average Nevadan makes in a year," Jahan Wilcox, an RNC spokesman, noted in a statement to reporters. Tim Miller, the executive director for America Rising, an anti-Clinton super PAC, called the UNLV Clinton fee absurd.
Since leaving the State Department in 2013, Clinton has been a highly sought after speaker for university, cooperate and conference events.
While many of her speeches are paid, Clinton also regularly appears for free at certain events.
When she addressed the United Methodist Women Assembly in April, for example, Clinton did not charge a fee and organizers noted on stage that she paid her own way to the event.
"When Mrs. Clinton accepted our invitation to speak before us today, she declined our standard honorarium and covered her own expenses," United Methodist Women President Yvette Richards said in introducing Clinton.
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