His donors span the globe

The Clinton Foundation's contributions include millions from Saudis and Indians.

December 19, 2008|Dan Morain and Andrew Zajac

SACRAMENTO AND WASHINGTON — Hoping to allay conflict-of-interest concerns as his wife prepares to become secretary of State, President Clinton released a donor list Thursday that shows he has raised as much as $131 million from foreign governments -- including Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Norway -- for the William J. Clinton Foundation.

More than 200,000 patrons that have given nearly $500 million since the foundation's inception in 1997 were identified by name only. The disclosure provides a window into a charity that had closely guarded the identities of its donors -- countries, companies and individuals with keen and sometimes less-than-altruistic interests in U.S. foreign policy.

Clinton's foundation has focused on providing healthcare, particularly for people with AIDS in underdeveloped countries. It also works to promote economic growth in Africa and Latin America, combat global climate change, and solve such problems as childhood obesity in the United States.

Many of the top donors have been major campaign supporters of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. They include Los Angeles entertainment mogul Haim Saban, a strong backer of Israel; producer Stephen Bing; and Chicago billionaire Fred Eychaner.

The foundation also took in millions from foreign nationals, domestic and foreign corporations, and government entities that by law could not give to the Clintons' political campaigns. The Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office, Oman, Brunei, Qatar and Kuwait are among the high rollers that have given $1 million to $5 million.

When President-elect Barack Obama selected Hillary Clinton, the junior senator from New York, to be his secretary of State, he made clear that her husband would have to disclose the foundation donors. In a statement late Thursday, Obama said Bill Clinton's disclosure "meets our goals of transparency and goes above and beyond in preventing conflicts."

The list includes several businesses and individuals either from India or with strong ties to the country. Steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal gave between $1 million and $5 million; Suzlon Energy Ltd. contributed in that range; and the Confederation of Indian Industry donated $500,000 to $1 million.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy shrugged off any question about Hillary Clinton's ability to fairly mediate the chronically tense relationship between his country and India, both nuclear powers.

"It does not cause concern. This has to do with charity and not with politics," Nadeem Haider Kiani said.

The foundation's two biggest donors, at more than $25 million each, were the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, a London philanthropy started by hedge fund operator Chris Hohn; and UNITAID, an international drug purchase organization formed by Brazil, France, Chile, Norway and Britain to combat AIDS, malaria and other diseases in developing countries.

AUSAID, the Australian government agency responsible for managing Australia's overseas aid program, donated between $10 million and $25 million, as did Saudi Arabia and a Dominican Republic government agency formed to fight AIDS.

Individuals giving between $10 million and $25 million included Bing, Eychaner, Lions Gate Entertainment founder Frank Giustra, Gateway Computer founder Theodore Waitt of San Diego and Paychex founder Tom Golisano.

Giustra is a Canadian mining businessman who in 2005 accompanied President Clinton on a trip to Kazakhstan. Giustra's company later signed deals for uranium projects in Kazakhstan, a country with an authoritarian government and a much-criticized record on human rights.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also gave between $10 million and $25 million. Contributing between $5 million and $10 million were Saban, Norway and the Dutch Lottery.

Other million-dollar-plus donors include Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad; foundations established by billionaire George Soros and the Walton family (founders of Wal-Mart); and Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel tycoon and son-in-law to former Ukrainian President Leonid D. Kuchma, who was denounced by the State Department for "scandals, corruption and human rights violations."

Blackwater Worldwide, which has the contract to protect State Department officials in Iraq, is listed as giving $10,001 to $25,000.

The disclosure also lists some donations given by corporations and individuals that since have fallen far: American International Group Inc., the insurance company that was bailed out in the Wall Street crisis, gave in the $250,001-$500,000 range. San Diego trial attorney William Lerach, now in federal prison on kickback charges, gave between $100,001 and $250,000, as did the now-bankrupt Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc.

Most if not all of the high-dollar donors had been previously disclosed. In many instances, however, the amounts they gave had never been revealed.

Other former presidents have not made such detailed disclosures.

The list released Thursday served to jog memories that the Clintons and Obama might prefer to forget.

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