Monday, November 22, 2004

Saudis, Arabs Funneled Millions to Clinton's Library

Saudis, Arabs Funneled Millions to President Clinton's Library
BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
November 22, 2004

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. - President Clinton's new $165 million library here was
funded in part by gifts of $1 million or more each from the Saudi royal
family and three Saudi businessmen.

The governments of Dubai, Kuwait, and Qatar and the deputy prime minister
of Lebanon all also appear to have donated $1 million or more for the
archive and museum that opened last week.

Democrats spent much of the presidential campaign this year accusing
President Bush of improperly close ties to Saudi Arabia. The case was made
in Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11," in a bestselling book by Craig
Unger titled "House of Bush, House of Saud," and by the Democratic
presidential candidate, Senator Kerry."This administration delayed
pressuring the Saudis," Mr. Kerry said on October 20. "I will insist that
the Saudis crack down on charities that funnel funds to terrorists... and
on anti-American and anti-Israel hate speech."The Media Fund, a Democratic
group whose president is a former Clinton White House aide, Harold Ickes,
spent millions airing television commercials in swing states with scripts
such as, "The Saudi royal family...wealthy...powerful...corrupt. And close
Bush family friends."

Perhaps as a result, the Saudi donations to the Clinton library are
raising some eyebrows. Mr. Unger said he suspects that the Saudi support
may have something to do with a possible presidential bid by Senator
Clinton in 2008.

"They want to keep their options open no matter who's in power and whether
that's four years from now or whatever," the author said. "Just a few
million is nothing to them to keep their options open."

The chief financial officer for the William J. Clinton Presidential
Foundation, Andrew Kessel, said that the vast majority of the roughly
113,000 donors to the foundation are ordinary Americans who made small
gifts.

"We have 91,000 who gave $100 or less," he said in an interview Friday.
"It's not all Saudi princes."

Information about the donors is available to the public on a single
touch-screen computer mounted on a wall on the third floor of the recently
opened library. Eventually, most who have contributed $100,000 or more
will be listed on a wall in the museum's lobby, Mr. Kessel said.

However, some donors have asked that their names not be released. "We
don't have many," Mr. Kessel said, adding, "It doesn't involve anyone
controversial."

The computer lists donors by categories that correspond to the size of the
gift. But there are no dollar figures provided for each of the funding
levels.

Asked why the donor categories were not publicly defined, Mr. Kessel
said,"It was a decision we made.We really don't need to at this point."

As a charitable organization, the Clinton Foundation is not required to
make the names of its donors or the amounts of their gifts public.
However, some of the other foundations that contributed to the library
have disclosed their gifts on financial reports that are available from
the Internal Revenue Service. By comparing those reports with the donor
categories on the third-floor computer screen in the library, The New York
Sun was able to match donor categories with approximate dollar amounts.

The highest tier,"Trustees," includes donations from 57 individuals,
couples, or other entities. IRS reports reviewed by the Sun show that the
foundations at this level have generally given or pledged $1 million or
more. The Wasserman Foundation of Los Angeles, founded by movie mogul Lew
Wasserman, gave the Clinton library $3 million. The Roy and Christine
Sturgis Charitable Trust pledged $4 million. The Anheuser-Busch Foundation
has given $200,000 annually for the last several years as part of what
appears to be a $1 million pledge.The Annenberg Foundation also gave $1
million.

The Saudi royal family and the governments of Dubai, Kuwait, and Qatar
donated at this "Trustee" level, as did the governments of Brunei and
Taiwan. Also listed as trustees are three Saudi businessmen - Abdullah
Al-Dabbagh, Nasser Al-Rashid, and Walid Juffali.

Other notables at the "Trustee" level include the deputy prime minister of
Lebanon, Issam Fares; Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and his wife,
actress Kate Capshaw, and an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune, Alice Walton.

The next tier down is labeled "Philanthropists." A major New York labor
organization, Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union,
donated at this level, which appears to correspond to gifts of $500,000 to
$1 million. Also donating in this range was the editor of the Las Vegas
Sun, Brian Greenspun, who was one of Mr. Clinton's roommates at Yale.

On the level below that are the "Humanitarians." Based on benchmarks
available from other sources, the "Humanitarians" seem to have given
between $100,000 and $500,000. In their ranks are the King of Morocco,
Mohammed VI, as well as a Pakistani-American businessman from California,
Farooq Bajwa. Several perennial Clinton donors are on this list, such as
the Big Apple Supermarkets chief, John Catsimatidis, and a San Diego class
action lawyer, William Lerach. The U.S.-Islamic World Conference gave at
the Humanitarian level, as did several Jewish groups, the Jewish Communal
Fund, the Jewish Community Foundation, and the University of Judaism,
according to the information available on the computer screen in the
Clinton Library here.

The most controversial known donation to Mr. Clinton's library is also
recorded at this level: a gift from a Manhattan socialite and singer,
Denise Rich. Ms. Rich gave the foundation $450,000 while her fugitive
ex-husband, Marc Rich, was seeking a pardon on tax-evasion and
racketeering charges. Mr. Clinton granted the pardon hours before he left
office, triggering a federal criminal investigation, as well as
congressional inquiries.

As a result of that flap, a House committee voted in 2001 to require
public disclosure of all large donations to presidential libraries. But
the legislation stalled.

Another confounding aspect of the donor list available at the Clinton
library is that, in nearly every case, it lacks any information beyond the
name of the individual or company who gave. There are no hometowns or
addresses for the donors and only in rare instances is there mention of an
employer. Campaign finance records generally include this data.

Many of the numerous $100 gifts were for the inscribed bricks, or
"pavers," that surround fountains just in front of the building.The same
computer that lists the major donors also shows the minor ones where to
find their paver. As a result, lines at the sole terminal are sometimes
long.

President George H.W. Bush's library, which opened in 1997 in College
Station,Texas, also received significant financial support from overseas.
The governments of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Japan each gave $1 million or
more, while the People's Republic of China donated between $50,000 and
$100,000.

The Chinese communist government may also have chipped in for Mr.
Clinton's library. The Chinese Overseas Real Estate Development company
gave at the $100,000 or higher level. So did the National Opera of Paris.

Fund-raising for the Clinton Library began in 1999, while Mr. Clinton was
still in office. However, the fund-raising team reportedly refrained from
soliciting gifts from foreigners or foreign governments until Mr. Clinton
left the White House in January 2001. Aides to the former president said
the donations support not only the library complex, but also the
foundation's other work, such as distributing AIDS drugs abroad and
shoring up small businesses in Harlem.

Mr. Unger, who wrote "House of Bush, House of Saud," said he thinks the
gifts to Mr. Clinton's library pale in comparison to business deals that
Mr. Bush's family has done with the Saudis. The author said the gifts to
ex-presidents are designed to encourage a pro-Saudi attitude on the part
of present or future occupants of the White House. "It would be surprising
if they didn't give," Mr. Unger said."The Saudis have given to every
presidential library for the last 30 years, Republican and Democrat."

A Washington Post editorial on Thursday decried the lack of disclosure of
the Clinton Library's funders, calling it "outrageous." Said the
editorial,"the presidential libraries, though built and endowed with
private funds, are public property, run by the National Archives. The
public has a right to know who's underwriting them."