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More billionaires join Buffett-Gates charity initiative

Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates' Giving Pledge initiative asks billionaires to pledge at least half their wealth to charity.

September 19, 2012|Bloomberg News
  • Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty, are among the billionaires who have joined the Giving Pledge initiative. The Moores have pledged to support science museums and land conservation in the San Francisco Bay area.
Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty, are among the billionaires… (Justin Sullivan, Getty…)

Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates' initiative to get billionaires to pledge at least half their wealth to charity signed on 11 new families with a variety of causes and interests.

They causes they support include medical research, science museums, "Canadianism" and the legalization of marijuana.

The list of billionaires joining the Giving Pledge initiative includes Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty; Progressive Corp. Chairman Peter B. Lewis; and Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin; according to a statement Tuesday from the campaign.

Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., formed the Giving Pledge with the Gateses in 2010 to boost philanthropy among the world's richest people. The effort has attracted 92 commitments so far, including ones from Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg, Citigroup Inc. Chairman Emeritus Sanford "Sandy" Weill and Oracle Corp. co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison.

"We've said from the beginning that this is a long-term effort, so it's exciting to see continued progress," Bill Gates said in a statement. "This new group brings extensive business and philanthropic experience that will enrich the conversation about how to make philanthropy as impactful as possible."

Individuals and couples who sign on to the pledge often post letters on the initiative's website to explain their reasons for donating most of their wealth to charity and to describe their philanthropic efforts.

The newest letters include pledges from the Moores to support science museums and land conservation in the San Francisco Bay area, and from Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert and his wife, Jennifer, who support efforts to cure diseases such as neurofibromatosis.

Other billionaires joining the campaign are Manoj Bhargava, Charles R. Bronfman, Jonathan M. Nelson, Jorge M. and Darlene Perez, Claire and Leonard Tow, Albert Lee Ueltschi, and Romesh and Kathleen Wadhwani.

"I have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer," Ueltschi wrote in a letter posted on the website on joining the initiative. "You can't take it with you."

Ueltschi said he is providing funds for an organization he co-founded to train cataract specialists.

Bronfman, the former co-chairman of Seagram Co., said his foundation has a goal of enhancing "Canadianism." He has funded a project that produced television shorts focused on little-known successes from Canada.

Lewis said he seeks out causes that are often overlooked by others. He has supported progressive think tanks, investigative journalism and efforts to enact laws that give patients in the U.S. access to marijuana to relieve pain and nausea.

"If there is one area that is taboo for most philanthropists yet exemplifies disastrous public policy, it is our nation's outdated, ineffective marijuana laws," he wrote in a letter. "A majority of Americans are ready to change marijuana laws, yet we continue to arrest our young people for engaging in an activity that is utterly commonplace."

Lewis, 78, said in the letter that he used marijuana to relieve pain after the amputation of his lower leg.

Buffett, 82, the world's fourth-richest person with an estimated fortune of $47.4 billion, announced plans to donate most of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006. He also committed funds to charities established by his children and late wife.

Bill Gates, 56, and his wife have supported organizations around the world aimed at improving education, enhancing healthcare and reducing poverty through their namesake foundation. Gates is the world's second-richest person, with a fortune valued at $64.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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