From a comment in the NYT (edited)
The process of awarding an honorary degree is for the most part self-serving and cynical. Who can help the university raise its profile and / or money?
Receiving an honorary degree is like being given a tee-shirt with a brand name.
The recipient promotes the giver of the degree, while claiming for him/herself intrinsic merit in receiving it. It is a fundamentally narcissistic exchange.
I had a friend who was the president of a professional association At their annual big event this group always honoured some X of the Year. I can't recall the exact title.
There was a fee to attend this dinner and it was the group's primary source of income.
My friend told me that they chose the honouree based on an estimate of how many of his friends and business associates would attend the dinner.