- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is now the wealthiest and most powerful philanthropic organization on the planet, thanks to a $30 billion gift from investor Warren Buffett.

“It’s a big challenge for us to make sure this money gets used in the right way but one that we’re thrilled about,” Mr. Gates said yesterday at a press conference with his wife, Melinda, and Mr. Buffett at the New York Public Library.

Mr. Buffett is giving 85 percent of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to the Gates Foundation. The remainder will be distributed among foundations in the names of his wife, Susan B. Buffett, who died in 2004, and the couple’s three children. The shares are worth $44 billion.

The funding puts the Gates’ foundation ahead of the Ford Foundation, the second largest with $11.6 billion, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, now the third largest with $9.1 billion.

Mr. Gates announced recently that he would retire from Microsoft Corp., the company he co-founded in 1975, to run the foundation full time. Since its inception in 1994, the foundation has donated more than $10 billion toward global health and education. It is expanding into agriculture and micro-lending in Third World countries.

Mr. Buffett had intended to leave the money to his late wife’s foundation to distribute to philanthropic purposes, but he said he was so impressed with the Gates Foundation that he will leave the vast majority of his wealth to the philanthropy in the name of the world’s richest couple.

“We were always in agreement that it would all go back to society,” Mr. Buffett said.

“You can do a better job of giving it away than I would,” said Mr. Buffett, who later joked: “Their judgment above ground is going to be a lot better than mine under ground.”

The billionaire said the money would be better spent by a foundation than by the federal government through taxes on his estate.

The Gates Foundation has made major donations for research and medical treatment of AIDS and malaria, and has given millions of dollars for education.

More than $27 million has been distributed this year in grants to libraries and organizations to “provide sustainable public access” to computers and software.

The Computer History Museum received $15 million last year.

Funding last year also included $3 million for the Planned Parenthood Federation, $1.3 million to Pakistan Family Planning and $1 million to Planned Parenthood of Western Washington.

The National Council of La Raza received $400,000 last year and $3.6 million in 2004 to improve the U.S. educational system.

The Clinton Presidential Foundation received $500,000 for a global leadership summit to identify “pressing problems” and an additional $750,000 for operating expenses.

The Gates Foundation also supports population studies and research. In 2004, it gave $1 million to Population Action International and nearly $6 million to Africare.

Millions of dollars have been granted to the United Nations Foundation and United Nations Population Fund.

Nearly $350,000 has gone to the Tides Foundation for immigrant and refugee programs, health care for children and multicultural youth programs.

“We have had a lot of fun and have had a lot of impact,” Mr. Gates said.

Mr. Buffett said the Gates Foundation’s results, in terms of dollars, have been “terrific in improving life around the world.”

The condition on the annual $1.5 billion is that it be spent fully each year. That more than doubles the Gates Foundation’s output of more than $1.3 billion last year.

“We really owe it to society to give the wealth back,” Mr. Gates said.

Responding to questions as to whether the wealth is too concentrated in one foundation, Mr. Gates said billions of dollars are needed to aid the billions of poor people around the globe.

Mrs. Gates said the money wouldn’t be concentrated; “it just allows us to do even better.”

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