updated 6/14/2004 1:06:57 PM ET 2004-06-14T17:06:57

Former president Bill Clinton’s fledgling book career cost him millions of dollars in 2003, as he neglected the speaking circuit for the writing desk.

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Clinton earned nearly $4.4 million for speeches in 2003, less than half of the $9.5 million he made the previous year, according to financial disclosure reports made public Monday,

Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy said the drop in speaking fees resulted from the former president’s spending more time writing and making non-paid appearances.

“He is in more demand than ever, but in light of his book writing and charitable work, he has had to turn down five requests for every one he accepted,” said Kennedy.

Clinton also asked that in some instances, payments be made to his foundation, which encompasses his charity work, Kennedy said.

Many of those speeches were to businesses or business groups who paid $100,000 at minimum. But Clinton had to pass on his biggest payday, $500,000 from the Sakura Capital Management Company in Tokyo. The November speech was canceled, and the payment was forwarded on to Clinton’s presidential library foundation.

The 42nd president has yet to see a big payday from the reported $10 million to $12 million deal with publisher Alfred A. Knopf. The 950-page “My Life,” is due out June 22 amid a heavy publicity push to market the 1.5 million first printing copies.

Unlike his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, he apparently did not get a portion of that payment up front early in the writing process.

Paying down legal bills
In the past year, the Clintons also managed to pay down lingering legal debts from Whitewater and other investigations during their time in the White House.

The Clintons report they owe between $500,000 and $1,000,000 to a New York law firm for work done in 1998. The forms give no indication of how much was paid, but the previous year they reported owing between $1.7 million and $6.5 million.

They did get a little help with their debts from the U.S. government under provisions of the now expired independent counsel law, but not nearly as much as they’d hoped.

Last July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia authorized a payment of about $85,000 — a small fraction of the $3.5 million the Clintons had sought.

In paying off their debts, the couple no longer owes money to the Little Rock, Arkansas firm of Wright Lindsey & Jennings, or the Washington firm Williams & Connolly, which had claimed a debt of $1 million to $5 million.

A spokesman for Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., said the couple continues to make regular payments on the remaining legal bill.

The Clintons also reported assets ranging from $2 million to more than $10 million.

Sen. Clinton was paid about $2.3 million in 2003 royalties for her memoirs, “Living History.”

She had previously received about $4 million in book payments.

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