Over the last decade, former President Bill Clinton has raised
more than $500 million for his foundation, allowing him to build
a glass-and-steel presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., and
burnish his image as an impresario of global philanthropy. The
foundation has closely guarded the identities of its donors -
including one who gave $31.3 million last year.
Now, the secrecy surrounding the William J. Clinton Foundation
has become a campaign issue as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
seeks the Democratic presidential nomination with her husband as
a prime source of strategy and star power. Some of her rivals
argue that donors could use presidential foundations to
circumvent campaign finance laws intended to limit political
Mr. Clinton himself echoed those concerns this fall when he
pledged to make public future donors if Mrs. Clinton was elected
president. While disclosure is not legally required, failure to
do so, Mr. Clinton said, would raise "all these questions about
whether people would try to win favor with her by giving money to
Even so, past donors should remain private, he insisted, "unless
there is some conflict of which I am aware, and there is not."
But an examination of the foundation demonstrates how its
fund-raising has at times fostered the potential for conflict.
The New York Times has compiled the first comprehensive list of
97 donors who gave or pledged a total of $69 million for the
Clinton presidential library in the final years of the Clinton
administration. The examination found that while some $1 million
contributors were longtime Clinton friends, others were seeking
policy changes from the administration. Two pledged $1 million
each while they or their companies were under investigation by
the Justice Department.
Other donations came from supporters who had been ensnared in
campaign finance scandals surrounding Mr. Clinton's 1996
In raising record sums for her campaign, Mrs. Clinton has tapped
many of the foundation's donors. At least two dozen have become
"Hillraisers," each bundling $100,000 or more for her
presidential bid. The early library donors, combined with their
families and political action committees, have contributed at
least $784,000 to Mrs. Clinton's Senate and presidential coffers.
The foundation and Mrs. Clinton's political campaigns have been
intertwined in other ways. Terry McAuliffe, who led the
foundation's fund-raising and sits on its board, is now Mrs.
Clinton's campaign chairman and chief fund-raiser. Cheryl Mills
plays a similar dual role, sitting on the foundation board and
serving as the general counsel to Mrs. Clinton's campaign. And
Jay Carson recently traded a communications position at the
foundation for a job as her campaign's press secretary.
As the scope of the foundation expanded from the Clinton library
into issues like treating AIDS in the developing world and
addressing global poverty and climate change, and Mrs. Clinton
moved closer to announcing her candidacy, the pace of giving
quickened. Last year, contributions reached $135 million, a 70
percent increase over the previous year. Two-thirds came from
just 11 donors.
The $31.3 million donation, which was previously undisclosed,
came from the Radcliffe Foundation run by Frank Giustra, a
Canadian who has made millions financing mining deals around the
world. Mr. Giustra has become a member of Mr. Clinton's inner
circle, joining him on global trips and lending him the use of
his private MD-87 jet.
For weeks, Clinton Foundation officials had suggested that the
$31.3 million contribution listed on its tax return did not come
from a single donor. They then said it came from a single source,
but declined to identify it. Wednesday afternoon, a
representative of Mr. Giustra contacted The Times and
acknowledged the Radcliffe contribution.
This year, Mr. Giustra announced separate plans to give the
Clinton Foundation $100 million, plus half of his future earnings
from natural resource business ventures, for a joint project to
spur economic growth in poor Latin American mining communities.
Taken together, the contributions make Mr. Giustra one of the
foundation's largest benefactors, if not the single largest.
The Times's findings are based on tax documents filed by the
Clinton Foundation and by groups that contributed to it,
interviews with donors and people with direct knowledge of the
foundation's activities, as well as federal government records
and an analysis of campaign finance data.
In a statement, the foundation said, "Donors did not seek, nor
did President Clinton give, favors from the federal government,"
adding that most of the contributions came after Mr. Clinton left
office. "President Clinton is grateful for the support the
foundation has received from more than 100,000 donors," which
helped provide AIDS medication for 750,000 people, fight climate
change, combat childhood obesity and build heath systems around
the world, the statement said.
In a separate written response from Mrs. Clinton's campaign, a
spokesman, Phil Singer, said, "Senator Clinton is not involved in
the fund-raising or operations of the Clinton Foundation." Mr.
Singer noted that President Clinton's promise to disclose future
donors should his wife become president went beyond what the law
To limit the influence of any single donor, federal election law
prohibits foreign donations to presidential campaigns and limits
Americans to $2,300 per election. But presidential foundations
are free to accept unlimited and anonymous contributions, even
from foreigners and foreign governments. Indeed, the Saudi royal
family, the king of Morocco, a foundation linked to the United
Arab Emirates, and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar have made
contributions of unknown amounts to the Clinton Foundation.
"The vast scale of these secret fund-raising operations presents
enormous opportunities for abuse," said Representative Henry A.
Waxman, Democrat of California, who introduced a bill to force
disclosure of presidential foundation donors. The bill passed the
House, 390-34, in March but stalled in the Senate.
Building a Foundation
In June 1999, as the Clinton administration wound down, Mrs.
Clinton told friends gathered in the White House solarium that
wealthy donors had offered to establish a foundation for her. But
she was set on running for the Senate in New York. That same
month, Mr. Clinton and his chief fund-raiser met for dinner with
40 executives at La Grenouille, a French restaurant in Manhattan.
The president had a vision for a charitable foundation that would
tackle problems domestic and foreign, several former aides who
helped establish the foundation said.
But first, Mr. Clinton had to raise money for his presidential
library, which would ultimately cost $165 million. He found a
ready pool of library donors in people and companies with matters
before the government, many of them loyal Democratic
On October 6, 1999, the charitable arm of the Anheuser-Busch
Companies gave $200,000, the first of five payments over five
years totaling $1 million, according to records filed by the
company's foundation. Less than a month earlier, the company, the
country's leading beer maker, had scored a major victory when the
Clinton administration's Federal Trade Commission dropped a bid
to regulate beer, wine and liquor advertising that critics said
was aimed at under-age drinkers.
Francine I. Katz, a company spokeswoman, said the donation was
unrelated to any government action and that its foundation had
contributed more than $360 million to a wide array of
organizations, including the Bush, Truman and Johnson
William A. Brandt Jr., a bankruptcy lawyer in Chicago and
prolific Democratic fund-raiser, pledged $1 million in May 1999.
At the time, the Justice Department was investigating Mr.
Brandt's testimony to Congress about a $10,000 per couple
fund-raiser he had held for the president's 1996 re-election
campaign. At issue was whether he had lied when he denied
promoting it as an explicit opportunity to lobby a top bankruptcy
official at the event.
In August 1999, the Justice Department determined that
"prosecution is not warranted." Mr. Brandt, who is now a
Hillraiser, did not respond to several phone and e-mail messages.
Bernard L. Schwartz, another major Democratic contributor who was
then chief executive of Loral Space and Communications, gave
$250,000 and pledged $750,000 more in 2000. At the time,
investigators were trying to determine if Loral had improperly
provided satellite technology to China. Under the Bush
administration, Loral agreed to pay a civil fine of $14 million
to settle the case. Mr. Schwartz, who is now also a Hillraiser,
said that his donations were unconnected to Loral's troubles and
added that he had contributed to other presidential libraries.
Toward the end of the Clinton administration, Dr. Richard Machado
Gonzalez and his lawyer, Miguel D. Lausell, both major Democratic
donors in the 1996 presidential election, were pushing the
president to increase Medicare reimbursements to hospitals in
Puerto Rico, like the one owned by Dr. Machado. Mr. Lausell
pledged $1 million to the library in 1999, eight months before
Mr. Clinton proposed increasing Medicare payments to Puerto Rico
for the second time in his administration. Dr. Machado gave the
foundation $100,000 about six months later.
In the interim, the president appointed Mr. Lausell to the board
of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which helps
American companies with foreign projects.
Jeffrey Farrow, who coordinated issues involving Puerto Rico for
the president, said the administration felt Medicare unfairly
penalized Puerto Rico by paying a lower rate there than in the 50
states. Although Congress rejected the proposed increase, Mr.
Farrow said "they didn't have to contribute the way they did in
order to get our attention."
Both men are supporters of Mrs. Clinton, and Mr. Lausell serves
as a senior adviser on Latino affairs. Dr. Machado did not return
calls seeking comment, and efforts to reach Mr. Lausell through
the campaign were not successful.
A fledgling telecommunications company, NextWave Wireless, was
battling the Federal Communications Commission when library
fund-raisers tapped its chief executive and a major investor.
NextWave had promised to pay $4.74 billion for cellphone
licenses, but when it declared bankruptcy before completing its
payments, the F.C.C. threatened to put the licenses up for public
auction, which would have ruined NextWave.
Over three consecutive days in December 1999, with a decision
imminent, the library logged a $100,000 pledge from NextWave's
chief executive, Allen Salmasi, and a $100,000 contribution plus
a $1 million pledge from Bay Harbour Management, a major investor
The agency ultimately repossessed NextWave's licenses, prompting
a court battle that the company won. Bay Harbour's co-owner,
Douglas Teitelbaum, who declined to comment, never fulfilled his
promise to contribute the additional $1 million. Mr. Salmasi did
not respond to an e-mail message or to calls to a company
Mr. Clinton also found support for his library among some people
who figured in the Democratic fund-raising controversies dating
to the 1996 elections that involved White House sleepovers,
coffees for big donors and money funneled from the Chinese
Among them was Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born aviation executive
whose involvement in the Iran-contra scandal - one of his
companies flew military equipment to Iran in the 1980s - prompted
the Democratic National Committee to return a $143,000 donation
in 1997. The party later accepted the money. Mr. Azima pledged $1
million to the library.
Another $1 million pledge came from Eric and Patricia Hotung. Mr.
Hotung is a Hong Kong businessman who in 1997 was granted a
meeting with Mr. Clinton's national security adviser after Mr.
Hotung's wife, Patricia, an American, offered $100,000 to the
Nine of the original library donors received presidential
appointments to organizations like the President's Committee on
the Arts and Humanities and the United States Holocaust Memorial
Council. In his final days in office, Mr. Clinton appointed two
of the donors, the businessmen Mark S. Weiner and Vinod Gupta, to
the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
A Joint Effort
At a Democratic debate in September, when Mrs. Clinton was asked
whether the foundation would disclose its donors, she indicated
that the decision was not hers. "Well, you'll have to ask them,"
she replied, referring to the former president and his staff.
But Mrs. Clinton's effort to distance herself understates the
extent to which the foundation was a joint enterprise from the
Shortly after the Clintons left the White House, close advisers
convened meetings at the couple's Washington home to map out Mr.
Clinton's future as a philanthropist.
Mrs. Clinton played an important role in shaping both the
foundation's organization and the scope of its work, said Karen
A. Tramontano, a senior adviser in the Clinton White House and
the foundation's first chief of staff.
Advisers also were acutely aware that the foundation's operations
- and any perception of a conflict - could harm Mrs. Clinton
politically. "She and I would speak frequently," Ms. Tramontano
said. "She had a lot of ideas. All the papers that went to him
went to her."
Early on, donations to the library caused perception problems.
The day after he left office, Mr. Clinton was embroiled in a
scandal over his 11th-hour pardon of the financier Marc Rich, who
fled the United States in 1983 to avoid tax evasion and other
charges. A Congressional hearing later revealed that the pardon
came after Mr. Rich's former wife, Denise Rich, contributed
$450,000 to Mr. Clinton's library.
That spring, Mrs. Clinton co-sponsored legislation to publicly
identify donors to foundations of future sitting presidents. She
referred to that legislation in the debate three months ago,
although the bill had died in committee.
Beyond the revelation of the Rich donation, the names of some
other donors emerged after the library opened in November 2004,
when a New York Sun reporter found a partial contributor list
displayed on a public computer there. The list, with neither
amounts nor dates, disclosed donations from the Saudi royal
family and other foreign sources. After the Sun story, the
computer plug was pulled.
As the foundation has evolved into global philanthropy, it has
attracted more large donors. Among them are Tom Golisano, an
iconoclastic billionaire from upstate New York, who gives the
foundation $3 million to $5 million a year, according to Mr.
Golisano's confidants; Stephen Bing, a Hollywood producer and a
Hillraiser, who contributed stock worth $10,028,614 in 2005; Sir
Tom Hunter, a Scottish businessman who began donating $10 million
a year in 2006 for economic development in Africa; and the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation, which said it had given or pledged
$23,145,677 since 2005, mostly to support AIDS work and an effort
to reduce the costs of malaria drugs.
Throughout, Mrs. Clinton has offered "good, specific ideas" to
the foundation when Mr. Clinton asks her to attend planning
sessions, said Ira Magaziner, a top foundation executive and
longtime Clinton adviser.
As the presidential campaign got under way, foundation officials
began working to ensure that none of their enterprises would have
political repercussions for Mrs. Clinton. Brian Byrd, who once
worked for the Rockefeller Foundation and is now a lobbyist for
arts groups, said that this year he interviewed for a job created
to help review attendees to Mr. Clinton's annual conference and
make sure charitable pledges were met.
"Part of it was that Hillary was running for president, and they
wanted to be sure everything was on the up and up - that was said
to me," said Mr. Byrd, who added that he decided he did not want
and was not offered the position. "They wanted to get all their
ducks in a row."
Alain Delaqueriere and Aron Pilhofer contributed reporting.