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Bill Clinton

Clinton group raised $725m

Bill Clinton 52%

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Former US president Bill Clinton has raised more than US$500 million (S$725 million) for his foundation over the last decade from foreign governments, corporate barons and other international figures with interests in US foreign policy. 

Lifting a veil of secrecy aggressively protected by the former president, the William J. Clinton Foundation on Thursday disclosed a 2,922-page list of more than 200,000 benefactors.

The revelations were agreed to with President-elect Barack Obama to pave the way for Mr Clinton's wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, to become secretary of state.

The list of multi-million-dollar donors is a Who's Who of royal families, philanthropic foundations, entertainers and international business moguls.

Thus it amounts to a thicket of potential conflicts of interest that Mrs Clinton must avoid should the Senate approve Mr Obama's nomination to make her the nation's top diplomat.

Saudi Arabia alone gave the foundation US$10 million to US$25 million, the largest of any foreign government.

Brunei, Kuwait, Norway, Oman and Qatar each gave more than US$1 million to the foundation, a non-profit group that financed Mr Clinton's presidential library and funds charitable efforts to fight poverty and chronic global health problems.

The public disclosure provides the clearest evidence yet of the former president's extensive international fund-raising and charitable efforts since leaving the White House in January 2001.

His foundation, created in 1997, has no legal requirement to identify its contributors, but he agreed to make the names public to avoid problems if his wife is confirmed as secretary of state.

The list of corporate donors also includes several companies that have figured prominently in the financial crisis, including failed bank Lehman Brothers, CitiGroup, Freddie Mac and General Motors.

Among the foundation's smaller donors is Blackwater Worldwide, the largest US security contractor in Iraq, which donated US$10,000 to US$25,000.

The next secretary of state will help determine whether Blackwater will keep its contract in the wake of a shooting last year that left 17 Iraqis dead. Five Blackwater guards are under indictment for their roles in the incident, and a sixth has pleaded guilty.

In addition, the foundation accepted sizeable contributions from several prominent figures from India, including steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, the world's fourth-richest person.

Another is politician Amar Singh who lobbied Mrs Clinton this year on behalf of a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the United States, a deal that has rankled Pakistan, a key foreign policy focus of the incoming administration.

Such contributions could provoke suspicion at home and abroad among those wondering about any effect on administration policy.

Dr Matthew Levitt, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said donations from 'countries where we have particularly sensitive issues and relations' would invariably raise concerns about whether Mrs Clinton had conflicts of interest.

'The real question,' Dr Levitt said, 'is to what extent you can really separate the activities and influence of any husband and wife, and certainly a husband and wife team that is such a powerhouse.'

The Obama team signed a memorandum of understanding on Dec 12 with the William J. Clinton Foundation - provided to reporters on Thursday - requiring Mr Clinton to disclose his past donors by the end of the year and any future contributors once a year.

It also requires that if Mrs Clinton is confirmed, the Clinton Global Initiative will no longer hold events outside the US and will refuse any further contributions from foreign governments.

Mr Clinton's advocates said that the move showed that he had nothing to hide and that most of his largest contributors were already known. Yet while unprecedented, the disclosure was also limited.

The list posted on the foundation's website - www.clintonfoundation.org - did not provide the citizenship of donors, the dates they contributed or the exact amounts of their gifts. Instead it broke down contributors by dollar ranges.

Nearly 90 per cent of the Clinton Foundation's gifts are valued at US$250 or below, with 12,000 people giving US$10 or less. The median gift amount is US$45.

 

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