Clinton releases foundation donors

December 18, 2008 4:13:35 PM PST
The world opened its wallet for Bill Clinton. Governments, corporations and billionaires with their own interests in U.S. foreign policy gave the former president's charity millions of dollars, according to records he released Thursday to lay bare any financial entanglements that could affect his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next secretary of state.

Saudi Arabia, Norway and other foreign governments gave at least $46 million, and donors with ties to India delivered millions more. Corporate donors included the Blackwater security firm, at risk of losing its lucrative government contract to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq, and Web company Yahoo, involved in disputes over surrendering Internet information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of dissidents there.

Other high-profile Clinton donors don't suggest inevitable collisions between U.S. policies and their giving. Celebrities Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Paul Newman, Carly Simon and Chevy Chase all gave. Sports figures included New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Formula One driver Michael Schumacher and owners of the Indiana Pacers basketball team.

The records account for at least $492 million in contributions to the William J. Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit created by the former president to finance his library in Little Rock, Ark., and charitable efforts in dozens of countries to reduce poverty and treat AIDS. President-elect Barack Obama made Hillary Clinton's nomination as secretary of state contingent on her husband revealing the foundation's contributors, to address questions about potential conflicts of interest.

The foundation disclosed the names of its 205,000 donors on its Web site Thursday, ending a decade of resistance to identifying them. It released only the names of donors and the range of their contributions. It did not identify each contributor's occupation, employer or nationality or provide any other details. The foundation said separately Thursday that fewer than 3,000 of its donors were foreigners but it did not identify which ones.

Presidents typically do not release the names of donors to their foundations, and the Clintons were no different. There also was no legal obligation for them to do so.

The foundation notified all donors by letter within the last 10 days to let them know their names would be published on its Web site. Almost no one objected, and none asked to have their donations refunded rather than have their names released. The foundation has a robust fundraising operation that solicits money by e-mail and direct mail. It said 90 percent of the donations to the foundation were $250 and under.

It was not immediately clear whether the disclosures will raise any serious challenge to Hillary Clinton's nomination to be secretary of state. The two senior lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sens. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen.clude Yahoo; its co-founder Jerry Yang; Yahoo board member Frank J. Biondi and former Yahoo chief executive Terry Semel, who stepped down in June 2007. Another company where Yang serves on the board, Alibaba.com, does extensive business in China and contributed separately to the foundation.

Eager to tap into China's lucrative markets, Yahoo has fallen under bitter criticism - one congressman publicly called Yang a moral "pygmy" - after the company handed over e-mails that helped the Chinese government identify and ultimately imprison two Chinese journalists. Yang later expressed regret over the incident and urged Rice - who would become Hillary Clinton's predecessor - to negotiate for their freedom.

The foundation's list also underscores ties between the Clintons and India, which could complicate diplomatic perceptions of whether Hillary Clinton can be a neutral broker between India and neighboring Pakistan in a region where Obama will face an early test of his foreign policy leadership. Tensions between the two nuclear nations are high since last month's deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Amar Singh, a donor in the $1 million to $5 million category, is an Indian politician who played host to Bill Clinton on a visit to India in 2005 and met Hillary Clinton in New York in September to discuss an India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement.

Also in that category was Suzlon Energy Ltd. of Amsterdam, a leading supplier of wind turbines. Its chairman is Tulsi R. Tanti, one of India's wealthiest executives. Tanti announced plans at Clinton's Global Initiative meeting earlier this year for a $5 billion project to develop environmentally friendly power generation in India and China.

Two other Indian interests gave between $500,000 and $1 million each: the Confederation of Indian Industry, an industrial trade association; and Dave Katragadda, an Indian capital manager with holdings in media and entertainment, technology, health care and financial services. Ajit Gulabchand, chairman of the Hindustan Construction Co., gave $250,000 to $500,000.

Other foreign governments also contributed heavily to the foundation.

AUSAID, the Australian government's overseas aid program, and COPRESIDA-Secretariado Tecnico, a Dominican Republic government agency formed to fight AIDS, each gave $10 million to $25 million. Norway gave $5 million to $10 million. Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei and Oman gave $1 million to $5 million each. The government of Jamaica and Italy's Ministry for Environment and Territory gave $50,000 to $100,000 each. The Tenerife Island government donated $25,000 to $50,000.

The biggest donations - more than $25 million each - came from two donors. They are the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, a London-based philanthropic organization founded by hedge fund manager Chris Hohn and his wife Jamie Cooper-Hohn and dedicated to helping children, primarily in Africa and India; and UNITAID, an international drug purchase organization formed by Brazil, France, Chile, Norway and Britain to help provide care for HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis patients in countries with high disease rates.

The foundation's donor list includes many overseas business interests:
-Saudi businessman Nasser Al-Rashid gave $1 million to $5 million.

-Friends of Saudi Arabia and the Dubai Foundation each gave $1 million to $5 million, as did the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office.

-The Swedish Postcode Lottery gave $500,000 to $1 million.

-China Overseas Real Estate Development and the U.S. Islamic World Conference gave $250,000 to $500,000 apiece.

-The No. 4 person on the Forbes billionaire list, Lakshmi Mittal, the chief executive of international steel company ArcelorMittal, gave $1 million to $5 million. Mittal is a member of the Foreign Investment Council in Kazakhstan, Goldman Sachs' board of directors and the World Economic Forum's International Business Council, according to the biography on his corporate Web site.

-Simon Barcelo, chief executive of Barcelo Hotels & Resorts, gave $500,000 to $1 million. The company's holdings include hotels in Cuba, a communist country subject to U.S. trade sanctions.

-Victor P. Dahdaleh, who gave $1 million to $5 million, is a Canadian investor and philanthropist involved in aluminum production. His business ties have brought allegations of fraud and bribery in a lawsuit filed by a Bahrain aluminum company. The suit seeks more than $1 billion in damages for what it alleges is Dadaleh's involvement in questionable deals in the Middle East, and the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the matter. Dahdaleh has vowed to vigorously contest the charges.

Among other $1 million to $5 million donors:
-Harold Snyder, director for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the largest drug company in Israel. His son, Jay T. Snyder, serves on the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, which oversees State Department activities, and served as a senior U.S. adviser to the United Nations, where he worked on international trade and poverty. Jay Snyder donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to the foundation.

-No. 97 on the Forbes billionaire list, Ethiopian-Saudi business tycoon Sheikh Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi.

-Issam Fares, a former deputy prime minister of Lebanon.

-Mala Gaonkar Haarman, a partner and managing director at the private investment partnership Lone Pine Capital.

-Lukas Lundin, chairman of oil, gas and mining businesses including Tanganyika Oil Company Ltd., an international oil and gas exploration and production company with interests in Syria, and Vostok Nafta Investment Ltd., an investment company that focuses on Russia and other former Soviet republics.

-Victor Pinchuk, son-in-law of the former president of Ukraine. Clinton spoke in 2007 at an annual meeting of Yalta European Strategy, a group Pinchuk founded to promote Ukraine joining the European Union.

The top ranks of Clinton's donor list are heavy with longtime Democratic givers, some notable for their staunch support of Israel.

-TV producer Haim Saban and his family foundation, who donated between $5 million and $10 million, splits his time between homes in Israel and California. "I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel," he told The New York Times in 2004.

-Slim-Fast diet foods tycoon S. Daniel Abraham, a donor of between $1 million and $5 million, has been a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which promotes Israel's interests before the U.S. government.

-The American Jewish Committee and the United Nations Foundation donated $100,000 to $250,000.

Clinton thanked his donors in a statement for being "steadfast partners in our work to impact the lives of so many around the world in measurable and meaningful ways."

The former president agreed to step away from direct involvement in the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual charitable conference where businesses and many foreign governments pledge donations to help ameliorate AIDS, poverty and other social ills. He will continue serving as CGI's founding chairman but will not solicit money or sponsorships. The CGI will cease accepting foreign contributions and will not host events outside the United States.

Clinton started raising money for his library before leaving the White House. Over the years, the Clintons repeatedly refused to identify all the foundation donors, and continued to do so during Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Names surfaced nonetheless. Several news organizations unearthed foreign-government donors, and in 2001, Bill Clinton turned over a list of 150 top foundation donors to a House committee investigating his pardon of fugitive businessman Marc Rich, whose ex-wife, Denise Rich, gave the library foundation at least $450,000.


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