Bill Clinton with Bill Gates
The Governments of Saudi Arabia and Norway, the Dubai Foundation and the business moguls Bill Gates, Stephen Bing, Haim Saban and Robert L Johnson are among the biggest financial backers of former President Bill Clinton’s foundation over the last decade, according to a complete donor list published for the first time Thursday (Dec 18, 2008) morning.
Lifting a longstanding cloak of secrecy, Mr Clinton disclosed the names of more than 200,000 donors to his foundation as part of an agreement negotiated with President-elect Barack Obama to douse concerns about potential conflicts of interest if Hillary Rodham Clinton is confirmed as Secretary of State.
The donor list, posted on the web-site of the William J Clinton Foundation, www.clintonfoundation.org indicates that his organization accepted multimillion-dollar gifts from a variety of foreign governments, companies and individuals who might have an interest in United States foreign policy. The foundation raised $500 million over the last decade to pay for Mr Clinton’s presidential library and his philanthropic activities.
Federal law does not require a former President to reveal his foundation’s financial benefactors and Mr Clinton until now had declined to do so, arguing that many who gave expected confidentiality. But when Mr Obama asked Mrs Clinton to join his cabinet, the former President agreed to release his list as part of a nine-point agreement intended to keep his multifaceted activities from compromising his wife’s work if she wins Senate confirmation to become the nation’s top diplomat.
Mr Clinton’s advocates said the publication of the list showed that he had nothing to hide and argued that most of the largest contributors had already become known. The foundation said that its median gift since its inception came to $45 and that nearly 90 percent of its gifts were $250 or smaller.
“I want to personally express my deepest appreciation to our many contributors, who remain steadfast partners in our work to impact the lives of so many around the world in measurable and meaningful ways,” Mr Clinton said in a statement.
The list released on Thursday (Dec 18, 2008) does not detail the precise amounts of the donations, nor the dates they were given, instead breaking down contributors by general dollar ranges. Mr Clinton’s aides said they have labored for the last few weeks trying to track down and notify the 208,000 people, companies and governments that have chipped in since 1997 that their identities would be made public.
The potential for foreign donors to the Clinton foundation to create the appearance of conflicts of interest for Mrs Clinton as she handles foreign policy matters was illustrated by Amar Singh, listed as giving between $1 million and $5 million. Mr Singh is apparently a prominent Indian politician of that same name.
In September, Mr Singh visited Washington to lobby Congress to support a deal allowing India to obtain civilian nuclear fuel and technology from the United States. The deal was controversial because India has developed nuclear weapons but is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Mr Singh met and posed for photographs with Mrs Clinton, afterwards telling Indian reporters that Mrs Clinton had assured him that Democrats would not block the deal. Congress approved the nuclear cooperation deal with India a few days later.
The two largest contributors, listed as giving more than $25 million apiece, were the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, a grant-making charity that focuses on sub-Saharan Africa and India, and UNITAID, an international alliance formed two years ago to fight H.I.V./AIDS. Another 11 donors gave between $10 million and $25 million, including Mr Bing, Mr Gates’s foundation and the Saudi government.
Also in this category is Frank Giustra, the Canadian mining financier whose dealings with Mr Clinton have drawn questions in the past. Mr Clinton traveled with Mr Giustra in 2005 to Kazakhstan, where Mr Giustra was seeking uranium contracts. Mr Clinton lavished praise on Kazakhstan’s authoritarian leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Mr Giustra’s company soon afterward signed preliminary agreements to buy into state-controlled uranium projects.
Months later, The New York Times reported earlier this year, Mr Giustra donated $31.3 million to the Clinton foundation. On the list posted Thursday (December 18, 2008), Mr. Giustra is reported as having given between $10 million and $25 million personally and the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative-Canada is reported as having given between $1 million and $5 million.
Another donor listed as giving between $1 million and $5 million is Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian tycoon who is the son-in-law of that nation’s former authoritarian President, Leonid Kuchma, whose handpicked successor was prevented from taking power during the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004.
Among governments — or entities funded by them — that contributed, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the largest donor, giving between $10 million and $25 million. Norway gave between $5 million and $10 million. Kuwait, Qatar, the Dubai Foundation, Brunei Darussalam, and Oman donated between $1 million and $5 million each.
Irish Aid, China Overseas Real Estate Development Corporation donated several hundred thousand dollars each. Italy and Jamaica each donated between $50,000 and $100,000.
Some of the more notable donors were previously known. For example, Denise Rich, the songwriter and ex-wife of onetime fugitive financier Marc Rich, to whom Mr Clinton gave a controversial pardon in his final hours as President, is listed as giving between $250,001 and $500,000. In addition, Denise Rich Songs Inc, gave between $10,000 and $25,000. Those donations are within the range of previous reports about her donations leading up to Mr Clinton’s decision to pardon Mr Rich.
Mr Clinton has spent the eight years since leaving the White House traveling the world collecting six-figure fees for speeches and even larger checks for his charitable activities. He pulled in $10.1 million for 54 speeches last year alone and in recent weeks has spoken at an economic symposium sponsored by the National Bank of Kuwait and an event organized at the behest of a Malaysian businessman who has been under fire from his own investors.
At the same time, Mr Clinton’s foundation and its various offshoots have promoted programs to fight malaria, AIDS, malnutrition and other maladies around the world, sometimes in tandem with foreign governments. With 1,100 paid staff members and volunteers in more than 40 countries around the world, the foundation said it has provided medicine to 1.4 million people living with H.I.V./AIDS, helped dozens of cities reduce greenhouse gases and worked to spread economic opportunity.
With Mrs Clinton slated to take over the State Department, Mr Obama’s team wanted to find a way to prevent the former President’s numerous business and philanthropic affiliations from creating awkward situations that might seem to conflict with administration policy. But Mr Obama’s aides said they also wanted to find a balance that would not hinder the charitable programs from continuing their work.
As part of his agreement with Mr Obama, hammered out by lawyers representing both men, Mr Clinton accepted a variety of limitations on his personal business activities and involvement in his global philanthropic organizations that go beyond federal law. He agreed to submit future personal speeches and consulting contracts for review by State Department ethics officials and, if necessary, by the White House counsel’s office.
If his wife is confirmed, Mr Clinton also agreed to incorporate the Clinton Global Initiative, which promotes efforts to fight disease, poverty and climate change, separately from his foundation so that he will have less direct involvement. The initiative will no longer hold annual meetings outside of the United States or accept new contributions from foreign governments. Mr Clinton will still host gatherings in the United States and invite participants who pay registration fees, but will not solicit sponsorships.
Four other initiatives under the umbrella of the Clinton foundation, focused on H.I.V./AIDS, climate change, development and sustainable growth, will continue to do work under agreements with foreign governments that provide financing, including Britain, France, Norway and Sweden. But if any of those countries increases its commitment or a new country decides to contribute, the foundation will notify State Department ethics officials. (Courtesy: www.nyt.com, December 19, 2008)