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Ticket sales brisk for Hillary Clinton's speaking tour

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who leads the pack of potential Democratic 2016 presidential contenders, speaks to a group o
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who leads the pack of potential Democratic 2016 presidential contenders, speaks to a group o

By Gabriel Debenedetti and Marilyn Thompson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For $9,600, fans of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can rent a luxury suite for her scheduled June speech near Denver, part of a package that includes seats for 26 guests and five VIP parking passes.

The original prices for tickets to Clinton's speech at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, Colorado ranged from around $50 to $200, but ticket companies scooped up many of the arena's 6,500 seats and now the secondary market for Clinton tickets is booming.

The Colorado speech on June 2 is one of two Clinton appearances being marketed by Unique Lives & Experiences. Billing itself as "North America's foremost women's lecture series," the program is sponsored by a Canadian company and specializes in "intellectual entertainment."

The speeches are part of an unusual series of appearances Clinton is making across the nation this year, a tour that has kept her in the spotlight at a time when she is the widely presumed front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. The Unique Lives speeches appear to be the first events marketed toward the general public - potential voters - where attendees are being charged for entry.

Money-making speaking tours are common for politicians who are retiring from prominent public lives. But Clinton's carries some political risk because she is weighing whether to run for president, a decision she has said she will make late this year or in early 2015.

In recent months Clinton has been paid substantial fees for speeches to several groups, including investors of Goldman Sachs and the Carlyle Group that drew some criticism from liberal groups that questioned whether she was being too cozy with Wall Street.

She has given other speeches to students and charity groups for free or at modest rates. Her staff does not discuss her speaking fees but several agents who book prominent political figures have said they believe Clinton's fee could reach $250,000 per speech.

It is unclear how much Clinton will be paid for her appearances in Colorado and in San Jose, California, on April 10, or what her financial arrangements are with Let's Talk Entertainment Inc., which is promoting the speeches.

Howard Szigeti, president of Let's Talk, did not respond to requests for comment. Clinton's staff referred questions to the event's hosts, in this case Let's Talk.

Ticket sales are brisk for the events on secondary market websites run by Event Tickets Center, VividSeats and StubHub, where seats in the upper sections of large civic auditoriums are resold at around $100 and suites are going for thousands of dollars.

Clinton's ticketed appearances, arranged by Szigeti, a Toronto-based promoter, have base prices similar to what high-profile entertainers such as musicians Hall and Oates and Cirque de Soleil charge at the Colorado venue. The tickets for the June event top out at about $200 through the official retailer, Altitude Tickets.

Tickets are also available online for separate Clinton speeches unaffiliated with Unique Lives or Let's Talk, in Vancouver on Wednesday and Calgary, Canada on Thursday.

Selling tickets to potential voters, and not just business professionals, "is a risk," said John Hudak, a specialist in presidential politics at the Brookings Institution.

"There could be blowback from the left and from the right for a decision to participate in an arrangement that is not typical for presidential candidates" if she were to run, he said.

But he thinks Clinton's decision to speak in front of such audiences was carefully considered.

"I am sure she is approaching it in a calculated way. We will find out soon enough whether she is miscalculating" the public reaction to her paid speeches, he added.

Szigeti's Unique Lives also promoted speeches by former first lady Laura Bush in 2011 and former President Bill Clinton - Hillary Clinton's husband - in 2012.

(Editing by David Lindsey and Tom Brown)

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