January 4, 2012; Source: San Francisco Chronicle (Bloomberg News) | When it comes to his post-presidential charitable activities, Bill Clinton has been no slouch. The William J. Clinton Foundation started in 2001, only a year after Clinton left the White House. During its decade of operations, the William J. Clinton Foundation has received more than $25 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, probably no surprise for the world’s largest private grantmaking foundation. But the former president has also lured more than $25 million—perhaps more than $30 million—from controversial Canadian mining executive Frank Giustra and his Radcliffe Foundation. There have been allegations that Giustra played the Clinton card—with the former President’s help—to land a lucrative contract with the government of Kazakhstan for the mining of uranium.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation reportedly gave the Clinton Foundation between $5 and $10 million during the decade and Los Angeles real estate investor, art collector, and promoter of charter schools Eli Broad has given between $1 and $5 million.
More controversial donors include Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and U.S. billionaire Tom Golisano. The chief executive of telecommunications companies Telmex and América Móvil, Carlos Slim is the richest man in the world, beating out the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Controlling massive companies, Slim personally accounts for 5 percent of Mexico’s economic output. The concentration of power and wealth that he represents—he is worth $74 billion in a nation where average family income is around $10,000 a year—earns him criticism, but Slim expresses no concern about others’ critical opinions of his wealth or his power. His Fundación Telmex gave the Clinton Foundation between $1 and $5 million.
Golisano owns Paychex, in the United States. Though exceptionally wealthy, he isn’t in Slim’s class, but agrees with Slim about critics of wealth. Golisano is one of the one-percenters in this country who has expressed disdain for protesters against concentrations of wealth and power, saying that the Occupiers’ repeated “fair share” language made him think of vomiting. He was toyed with running for Governor in New York as a Republican, eventually deciding not to, but he has been very generous with Clinton, donating between $10 and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Regardless of what one might have thought about Clinton’s performance as president, he has attracted phenomenal charitable donations from a potpourri of donors. What is clear is that Clinton will take money from his ideological pals (Broad, for example, is a big-time political donor to Democrats) and his ideological opponents (it would be hard to be further from the Democrats than Golisano), and he is quite willing to take money from controversial figures like Giustra and Slim on the international scene, so long as he can put the money to good use through the Clinton Foundation.—Rick Cohen