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Former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton arrive at Miami International Airport Oct. 15, 1994. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) Former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton arrive at Miami International Airport Oct. 15, 1994. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton arrive at Miami International Airport Oct. 15, 1994. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll April 6, 2015

Chain email: Secret Service pays the Clintons' mortgage

Now that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is nearing the launch of her 2016 presidential campaign, old rumors are starting to resurface.

A reader forwarded us a chain email he received that calls out Clinton and former President Bill Clinton for shady financial decisions. Versions of this same email first circulated in 2001 and again in 2008, during Hillary Clinton’s first presidential run. And now it’s back.

The email reads, in part:

Hillary Rodham Clinton, as a New York State Senator now comes under this fancy "congressional retirement staffing plan" which means that if she never gets re-elected, she STILL receives her Congressional salary until she dies. If Bill out-lives her, he then inherits HER salary until he dies. He is already getting his Presidential salary ($20,000 a month) until he dies. If Hillary out-lives Bill, she also gets HIS salary until she dies, Guess who pays for that?

WE DO! Clinton's 20 Acre - $11 million mansion is common knowledge. For her to establish NY residency, they purchased this mansion in upscale Chappaqua, New York....makes sense. They are entitled to Secret Service protection for life. Still makes sense. Here is where it becomes interesting. Their mortgage payments are around $10,000/month. But an extra residence had to be built by the government on the acreage to house the Secret Service Agents. Any improvement to the property is owned by the property owners...the Clinton's. So....the Clinton's charge the federal government $10,000 monthly rent for the use of the extra residence to house the Secret Service staff which is just about equal to their mortgage payment.

There’s a lot to unravel here. Is any of it true? Short answer: No.


First, let’s look at whether Clinton will receive her congressional salary until she dies. Upon retiring, Clinton would receive benefits through the Federal Employee Retirement System, which would also cover her time as secretary of state.

However, the pension for a member of Congress must not exceed 80 percent of the member’s final salary, according to law. So even if she received the highest pension possible, she wouldn’t be getting her full salary. In fact, in Clinton’s case, it would be much lower.

Pension annuities for federal employees are calculated using length of career, a benefits accrual rate and an average of the employees’ highest three salaries. Clinton spent eight years in the Senate and about four years as secretary of state, where she made her highest salary of about $186,000. Her accrual rate would be 1.7 percent.

We did the calculation, based on the formulas in a Congressional Research Service report, and found that she would actually earn a pension of about $41,000 -- about 25 percent of her salary as a senator.

And would Bill Clinton get that pension if he outlives Hillary? No -- according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, he could receive a maximum of 50 percent of her pension.

As for Bill Clinton’s presidential pension, he receives about $220,000 a year, which is about 75 percent of his presidential salary, after adjusting for inflation.

Featured Fact-check

Taxpayer-funded mortgage?

The email also implies that tax dollars are paying for the Clintons’ mortgage at their house in Chappaqua, N.Y. As it turns out, this was one of the very first claims PolitiFact ever fact-checked back in 2007. We rated it False, but let’s run through it quickly one more time.

As all former presidents, Bill Clinton is entitled to Secret Service detail for the rest of his life, including protection at his home. According to a Secret Service spokesman quoted in a 2001 Washington Post article, it is customary for the government to pay rent to the property owners in a situation like this.

However, the Clintons declined that rent. Former White House Press Secretary Jake Siewert told the Washington Post that "the Clintons are entitled to collect rent from the agency for space at their Chappaqua, N.Y., home but have declined the payments of about $1,100 a month."

When we looked at this in 2007, Hillary Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said, "They have not and do not receive money" from the Secret Service.

This time around, we asked current spokesman Nick Merrill, who said, "this is the same as it used to be, nothing has changed since last time you reported this."

We should point out that the Clintons purchased their Chappaqua house in 1999 for $1.7 million, not $11 million as the email says. They also purchased it on a certain type of mortgage that required they pay back the entire amount within five years with monthly mortgage payments of about $8,000, according to the New York Times.

Even if the Clintons got the $1,100 rent from the Secret Service, it would not have covered the size of their monthly mortgage.

This is not to say the Clintons aren’t wealthy -- and they still receive a good amount of money from the government because of Bill Clinton’s presidency. But the claims in this email are in no way accurate.

Our ruling

A chain email said Hillary Clinton will receive her "congressional salary until she dies" and that the Secret Service pays her mortgage.

Actually, a pension for a member of Congress cannot exceed 80 percent of the member’s last salary, according to law. Using federal employee retirement system formulas, Clinton’s retirement pension would likely work out to be about 25 percent of her congressional salary, about $41,000 a year.

And while the Clintons are eligible to receive rent payments from the Secret Service -- who need space to operate at the Clintons’ house -- the rent amount would not have covered their mortgage payments. In any case, the Clintons do not accept these rent payments.

We rate these claims Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

PolitiFact, "The Clintons don't receive money from Secret Service," Oct. 20, 2007

Snopes, "Landlord of Misrule," 2001

FactCheck.Org, "Secret Service Paying Clintons’ Mortgage?" March 10, 2008

Congressional Research Service, "Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress," June 13, 2014

New York Times, "With Some Help, Clintons Purchase a White House," Sept. 3, 1999

Washington Post, "The Reliable Source," Jan. 12, 2001

Politico, "Taxpayer tab for Clinton Inc.: $16 million," March 12, 2015

The New York Post, "BILL PASSES UP SECRET SERVICE $$," Jan. 16, 2001

Office of Personnel Management, Retirement FAQ, accessed April 2, 2015

Secret Service, FAQ, accessed April 2, 2015

Email interview, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill, April 6, 2015

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Chain email: Secret Service pays the Clintons' mortgage

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