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Bill Clinton accepts huge Saudi donation for his library

By M&C US News Dec 15, 2007, 23:30 GMT

Bill Clinton accepts huge Saudi donation for his library

10/04/2007 - Bill Clinton - Solarpix / PR Photos

It's not just the Bush family who are hand holding chums with the Saudis, the Clintons love their money, too.

The Washington Post reports that Bill Clinton's presidential library raised more than 10 percent of the cost of its $165 million facility from foreign sources, with the most generous overseas donation coming from Saudi Arabia, according to interviews yesterday.

The Saudi Arabian Royals gave the Clintons about $10 million for the library, roughly the same amount it gave toward the presidential library of George H.W. Bush, according to people directly familiar with the contributions.

The presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has for months faced questions about the source of the money for her husband's presidential library. During a September debate, moderator Tim Russert asked the senator whether her husband would release a donor list.

Clinton later declined to provide a list of donors.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is dead set against unidentified contributors to presidential libraries, saying that he wants to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in such donations.

Obama has introduced legislation that would require disclosure of all contributions to presidential libraries, including Clinton's, and Congress has actively debated such a proposal.

Money given to presidential libraries is often done with virtually zero disclosure.

The Clinton library has steadfastly declined to reveal its donors, saying they were promised confidentiality. The William J. Clinton Foundation, which funds the library, is considered a charity whose contributors can remain anonymous.

When the Post pressed for answers from the Clinton camp, they got this response: "As president, he was beloved around the world, so it should come as no surprise that there has been an outpouring of financial support from around the world to sustain his post-presidential work," a foundation statement said.

Some major donors' names to the Clinton library were inadvertently disclosed in 2004 when a New York Sun reporter accessed a public computer terminal at the library that provided a list of donors. The Post reports that "soon after the article appeared, the list of donors was removed."

The Post confirmed "numerous seven-figure donors to the library through interviews and tax records of foundations. Several foreign governments gave at least $1 million, including the Middle Eastern nations of Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the governments of Taiwan and Brunei."

In addition, a handful of Middle Eastern business executives and officials also gave at least $1 million each, according to the interviews. They include Saudi businessmen Abdullah al-Dabbagh, Nasser al-Rashid and Walid Juffali, as well as Issam Fares, a U.S. citizen who previously served as deputy prime minister of Lebanon.

Spokesmen for Kuwait and Taiwan confirmed that each government has given the library $1 million. Both governments also donated to other presidential libraries. Kuwait contributed at least $1 million to the library of former president George H.W. Bush, and Taiwan gave $2 million to the Ronald Reagan library.

The Reagan library does not disclose its donors, a spokeswoman said. The Bush and Jimmy Carter libraries have made broad disclosures. Except for a few donors who asked to remain anonymous, the Bush contributors have been named publicly, and the names of the largest among them are either chiseled into a wall or onto the bricks of a walkway at the library in Texas. The Carter library also has a wall of founders.

Bush's large foreign donors include Kuwait, Japan, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The family of Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi ambassador to the United States, contributed $1 million or more. Carter's donors include the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

Clinton was criticized for asking for donations, including from Saudi Arabia, at odd moments.

The Wall Street Journal published a column by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh who claimed Clinton "hit up [Saudi Arabia's head of state] Prince Abdullah for a contribution to his library" during a meeting in which Freeh wanted Clinton to ask about the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. Clinton has publicly disputed Freeh's account.

The Post reports that Clinton "has also been challenged by members of Congress for accepting a reported $450,000 donation to his library from the former wife of fugitive financier Marc Rich before he granted Rich a pardon for tax evasion in 2001. Neither Clinton nor the Rich family confirmed the donation."

The larger questions remain of why, exactly, are foreign countries and politicians donating such large amounts of money to ex American presidents "legacy" structures, when their countries policiies and behaviors often run counter the interests of the United States?

 



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