Gates, Buffett ask rich to donate half their wealth

Posted June 16, 2010 at 5:39 p.m.

ct-web-buffett-gates.jpgWarren Buffett, left, and Bill Gates play table tennis at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Neb., Sunday, May 6, 2007. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Associated Press | Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren
Buffett are launching a campaign to get other American billionaires to
give at least half their wealth to charity.

Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said in a letter
introducing the concept that he couldn’t be happier with his decision in
2006 to give 99 percent of his roughly $46 billion fortune to charity.

Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Gates and Buffett have been campaigning for the past year to get others to donate the bulk of their wealth.

The friends and philanthropic colleagues are asking people to pledge to donate either during their lifetime or at the time of their death. They estimate their efforts could generate $600 billion dollars in charitable giving. In 2009, American philanthropies received a total of about $300 billion in donations, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The handful of billionaires approached so far have embraced the campaign, said Stonesifer, a close friend of Gates who offered to speak about the effort. Four wealthy couples have already announced their pledges, including Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest of Philadelphia, John and Ann Doerr of Menlo Park, Calif., and John and Tasha Mortgridge of San Jose, Calif.

In addition to making a donation commitment, Gates and Buffett are asking billionaires to pledge to give wisely and learn from their peers. They said they were inspired by the philanthropic efforts of not just other billionaires but of the people of all financial means and backgrounds who have given generously to make the world a better place.

Their philosophical forebears are the Carnegie and Rockefeller families, who donated most of their wealth back to improve society and were the grandparents of modern philanthropy, said Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Ted Turner’s announcement 13 years ago of a $1 billion gift to United Nations programs also was done in part to inspire other big givers, but did not have a noticeable result, Palmer said.

“It’s a stretch to see how they’re going to get to the $600 billion figure,” she said, noting that only 17 people on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest people in America are also on the Chronicle’s list of the most generous American donors.

Many of these people may be giving anonymously or plan to donate when they die, but the bulk of money raised by charities today comes from non-billionaires giving $5, $10 or $50 at a time, Palmer said.

Buffett’s plan will eventually split most of his shares of his Omaha, Neb., company between five charitable foundations, with the largest chunk going to the Gates Foundation. He also plans to give Class B Berkshire shares to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which he and his late first wife started, and to the three foundations run by his three children.

Buffett said in 2006 that his other 73,332 Class A shares of Berkshire stock, worth about $8 billion, would also go to philanthropy, but he didn’t specify how those shares would be distributed.

Bill and Melinda Gates have made a similar pledge through the establishment of their Seattle-based foundation.

Gates and Buffett are asking each individual or couple who make a pledge to do so publicly, with a letter explaining their decision.

“The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. It does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations,” they explain in a written statement about the project.



  1. Grant June 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    What a scam. All the “evil rich” in this country have a target on their backs from the current administration…who hates all things “big money”.
    This is purely a business decision and a massive tax write off that the rest of us (who’ll probably be on welfare soon) will pay for. They’ll also probably create for themselves a bunch of “foundations” to shelter even more of it.

  2. BILLH84 June 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Donate to charity? How about take their money for reparations to the millions of Americans who have lost jobs and wealth due to the thievery of the corpations that tycoons like Buffet and Gates represent. There should be no legal proceedings, their wealth should be confiscated and distributed to hard working Americans. Assume that if they have an obscene amount of wealth then they obtained it illegally. This would also solve the way money influences government officials since the crooks would no longer be able to bribe and control who gets elected. All present government officials should resign and be replaced to ensure that those responsible are not in a position of authority going forward. The last 4 presidents have been unacceptable, and anyone associaed with them should not be allowed in government. All judges should resign, in fact lawyers should not be permitted in government.

  3. Tom June 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Your comment is rather disjointed. Does the slam against the Democrats, which has no basis in fact, (at least none offered by you) mean you side with the rich (BTW since boy George cut taxes for the wealthiest 5% almost 80% of all wealth in the country is controlled by those 5%…the most in history) or does your comment about it being a scam and ripping them for using the tax code to their advantage (agin the Dems try to fix this and the Republicans block it)mean you are not infavor of people donating to charity?

  4. Gregg June 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    If someone comes up with an idea that changes the world and makes a lot of money doing it, he is not a crook and really doesn’t owe anybody anything (ie Bill Gates). His ideas have created millions of jobs and a great deal of wealth for many people. His company has impacted the way we all live our day to day lives. I would suggest that rather than give the money away for nothing, he use it to reward others for world changing ideas.

  5. blitherer June 16, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    What an idiot, why not just tax ‘em their fair share.

  6. catholicgirl June 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    these people do a tremendous amount to help the world. We all should do what we can, within our means. How much did each of you do within the past year? The past five years? The past ten years?

  7. overqualifedapplicant June 16, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Seriously! Donate to those who are unemployed, especially to the LONG TERM Overqualified, experience folks… Senators and Congressmen alike should not rest at all on any night.They will loose their JOBS no doubt….How do you not see the importance of a tier 5 for those families and our economy…We voted you in, we will vote you OUT!!!!!!!! And will vote to take your cushion benefits back!! Bill Gates live in a state where unemployement is 10% at least..HElP those who HElPed you make BILLIONS..

  8. 007 June 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Truth be told, Gates didn’t so much come up with the brilliant ideas as he was able to exploit people who didn’t know better (the writer of DOS for one thing, plus IBM’s fumble to not buy DOS from MSoft outright), and the “lifting” of ideas from Apple and HP and beating them to market.

  9. Sam June 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    While giving money to charity seems to be a noble cause, sometimes it has an unintended effect of making things worse as “free” money has a tendency to corrupt governments and make aid recipients to be overly dependent on the money.
    For example, trillion of dollars in aid for Africa have not done much in improving the standard of living in that continent. Read this article in the WSJ to find out more:

  10. Humanist June 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    From the number of small-minded, snide comments, proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.

  11. Ella June 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    How about people do what they want with THEIR money. Gates and Buffett need to get real jobs, and leave everyone alone. If they want to give away their money, that’s their business. Stay out of everyone else’s.

  12. jumpy June 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Judging from almost all of the comments here, I would have to say that this country is full of selfish, egotistical jerks who would cry and complain if they were handed a huge bag of gold.
    I can hear them now: “This bag doesn’t match my shoes.”
    “I wanted a bag of platinum!!”
    “It weighs too much. Have you got a wheelbarrow?”
    No mater what someone does, someone will find a way to spin it to there liking.

  13. PVF June 16, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Why doesn’t Walmart start off by paying all of their employees a living wage? They have been exploiting everyone since the first store was incorporated. They could do more to raise the living standards of so many who are currently on the county dole for their health care. I’d also love to see the Walton family children promise to donate some of their billions instead of selfishly buying up art works for their private enjoyment.

  14. no name June 16, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Just confiscate their money? Why don’t you all move to China so you can live with the rest of the communists. Tom – offer up some facts on that so-called tax cut for the wealthy.

  15. John Thomas June 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Read the WSJ article. It’s pretty dumb, even for the WSJ, as are most articles that look at Africa as one big place instead of 54 individual countries, many of which are former European colonies.
    As we all know, colonialism worked and didn’t have any detrimental effects on nations in Africa. Nope, none at all. Didn’t lead to any dictators or strongman taking over after the Europeans left. Didn’t lead to Dutch Shell raping Nigeria.
    Yes, you’re right, It must be all that aid causing the problems.

  16. Bill June 16, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    HA-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! STOP IT, Gates! STOP IT, Buffett – you’re KILLING me! The obscenely wealthy, ultra-right-wing-Looney-Tunes of this world would literally – LITERALLY – prefer to burn in the fires of Hell for all eternity than give up a NICKEL of their money in order to better this planet. But sincerely – thanks for the yukks!

  17. no name June 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I know what it’s like to be unemployed and unable to pay the bills. However, I do not think that those who have done well for themselves should be ridiculed. The fact that these people are willing to donate significant portions of their income to charitable organizations should be encouraged. Today many people might say that helping out the unemployed and the poor is the most important thing right now. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that push was cancer research, disease prevention, etc? Who is to say one cause is more important than another? If they are willing to give away their money, it should go to whomever they choose. I’m not saying they should be praised for giving away money that they probably won’t miss but come on, how selfish are we??

  18. Rebecca Palumbo June 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Too funny. If you have 46 billion and give away 99%, you still have almost a 1/2 billion dollars – $460,000,000. And I would imagine that invested will make you a billion real quick!

  19. PRGuy June 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    As opposed to moving money through their own personal foundations (which will grant Gates and Buffet massive tax breaks) why don’t they broaden their horizons? First, their foundations fund worthwhile causes that help millions of people around the world. How about assessing the needs of the American people (lack of education, minimal access to quality health care) and commit these massive donations to charities that roll up their sleeves to fix these problems in our own backyard?
    Making a charitable contribution is certainly a personal decision, and no one problem is necessarily more important than the other, but a commitment of this magnitude could re-chart the course for this wayward country (ours).

  20. I_heart_schadenfreude June 16, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Ella | June 16, 2010 2:39 PM | Reply
    How about people do what they want with THEIR money. Gates and Buffett need to get real jobs, and leave everyone alone. If they want to give away their money, that’s their business. Stay out of everyone else’s.
    Ok, first off, “get real jobs”? Like being founder and CEO of one of the most successful companies in American history? I kinda think Bill and Warren did that already. Why do they need “real jobs” to understand human suffering?
    Also, they DID give away most of their money, a few years back. So they lead by example.
    You know Ella, you need to go back to school learn to read, and then study some American history and current events. Then come back in a few years to play with the grownups. In the meantime, scat. You’re making yourself look ignorant at best, and plain stupid at worst.

  21. Jo June 16, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Awww.but rich people are bad!

  22. JimBob June 16, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Of all the redistribution-of-wealth horsesheet I have ever heard this tops the list. When you have more money than you are ever capable of spending I suppose you can toss around ideas like this, but I have a serious amount of ground to cover before I get to that nice point.
    Why should these guys encourage others to do the same? Taxes. Their survivors are just going to lose that money to the government who will spend it on entertaining the president and other foolish uses. This way they at least have some control over how the money is spent.

  23. Banderman June 16, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Warren, Billy? Put a freaking sock in it. Obama has brainwashed you in ways that is pretty pathetic. Giving is giving. Being ‘advised to give’ or ‘ordered to give’ is socialism or communism; take your pick.

  24. ejhickey June 16, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I will gladly take some money from Bill or Warren or any other rich person as long as they want to give it away? Where do I apply?

  25. Dustin June 16, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Congratulations Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett! You continue to lead by the example most people need (especially the selfish, egotistical whiners here)!

  26. Fran Jerzgarzewski June 16, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Think of the individuals who have lived in poverty all their lives and share your wealth……………..

  27. SueSantoFan June 16, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I would hope that the billionaires would remember that charity begins at home. I would really like to suggest that the hungry children of this country be some of the recipients as well as our homeless and honored veterans who suffer.
    Corporate greed is a disease; I lost my stocks because of Mr. Buffett’s takeover of a company in my town and thus my pension. But my lot in life is nothing compared to the Gulf victims; our brave veterans who languish in hospitals with not enough care and the babies who are born to the ignorant and stupid who cannot manage themselves let alone a child.

  28. nellis June 16, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Prejudice is a disease that destroys the ability to think. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates were into philanthropy before Obama was elected. Give it a rest.

  29. Frank Watson June 16, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    The tea party crows will never go for this. They don’t think anybody should give anything to anyone. They don’t understand either giving or charity.

  30. youpeoplearebatsh**crazy June 16, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Seriously, they made their money the way all these teabaggers claim to want to protect, CAPITALISM! These flithy rich people who could just say “screw you, it’s my money and I’m going to wipe with it” have instead decided to help those less fortunate than they have been. Gates and Buffet have probably worked more hours on their own than most of you yahoos will work in a lifetime, combined.
    By the way, Socialism and Communism are at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, so being both of these at once would be quite complicated.

  31. Dan C June 16, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    According to every liberal I have ever met, the government is better able to meet people’s needs than any private organization.
    That is why liberals, in study after study, give far less to private charities than conservatives.
    Now, we have Gates and Buffet and others wanting to give their money away.
    Any true liberal must answer why Gates and Buffet do not give to the one organization liberals believe will do the most good: the federal government. Think of all the school lunches that they could pay for, or all the people they could pay insurance for, or all the teachers that could keep their tenured jobs.
    Look Ted Turner’s “gift”. He gave his money to the UN (supposedly $100 Million a year, for 10 years), that paragon of fiscal responsibility, and in fact stopped before completing his “gift” because he was getting too close to only having a Billion left.
    In fact, if Gates and Buffet did put half their money into a fund that withdrew 10% a year, they could pay for the full college tuition for over 250,000 students a year. Or better yet, a REAL education at parochial high schools for over 600,000 kids a year. But they don’t want kids to get an education – Gates and Buffet may so much more money by farming their work to Malaysia.
    It is entirely possible that the money Gates et al. “give” away will go to liberal causes, like giving condoms to 11 year olds and artists who cover pictures of the Virgin Mary with manure and vaginas. That, of course, is what Liberals think of as charity, not programs that get people off of drugs or genuine vocational training and the like. I would bet that they would give money to smuggle in illegals before they would do anything to help Mexico become a place people would not want to leave.
    So why not ask these two why they think private institutions are better places to use their resources than the Federal Government? Afraid you won’t like the answer?

  32. lefty hitter June 16, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    You need to get up with the times. There are tens of thousands of Chinese millionaires and billionaires.

  33. johnmak June 17, 2010 at 2:03 a.m.

    I am very impressed by Gates and Buffet. And with two or three of the people who commented. It’s a wonderful thing these people are donating their money. Of course, they are so rich that they won’t really miss the money, but they have earned that money and we should appreciate that they have decided to give most of it away. A fine American tradition in the vein of Carnegie and Rockefeller. They certainly have a right to give to the charities of their choice, as long as they are legitimate charities.

  34. JK W June 17, 2010 at 7:13 a.m.

    Dan c. get an original thought in your head. I’m sick of these same tired talking points of what liberals think and do from someone who is not a liberal. You have never engages with a liberal in your life and all you do is watch conservative commentators on television (I know you don’t read or have real life debates with others different from you) who spew their biased platform slogans to appeal to simple thinkers like you. As for the giving, its nice but I would prefer they use their influence to change the lack of equal opportunity for each American to suceed. Buffet admitted there is class warfare and his class is winning by a blowout; use that money and influence to make this a country where all can compete. This monopoly capitalism we practice here limits our choices and movement, instead of lobbying for another advantgage for their business or social class do something for the other 94% of us. This belief that the wealthy will tickle down there largess to help the rest of us is total b.s. but something is better than nothing.

  35. Tough Crowd June 17, 2010 at 7:24 a.m.

    Wow, you all are a tough crowd. Many of the causes you say you wish they were supporting instead, the Gates Foundation actually DOES support, including sending American kids to American colleges and improving inner city schools. A simple wikipedia search would tell you this. Yes, there are efforts to end world hunger spread capitalism in there too, but they are funding a pretty wide stretch of interests.
    If only 17 of the top 400 richest people are making these kinds of donations, it can’t JUST be the tax benefits – the rich are generally pretty good at safeguarding their own fortune (even Buffet and Gates surely have PLENTY to live on and enjoy themselves left over, and the good PR probably isn’t hurting their business). If giving away this much money was a win-win for a person’s finances, a lot closer to 400 out of 400 would be doing it. Some philanthropic generosity is rewarded by the tax code, but there are caps on the benefits.
    Someone has to look after things like inner city scholarships and world hunger, and frankly I can’t afford to help much myself, so I’m glad someone out there is using their wealth to make a difference – even if that means they have 12 luxury homes instead of 13 and to me that kind of wealth is unfathomable. Even if the causes they fund are worthless to you, if $5,000 of those donations per year leave their pocket and never come back to them or their corporations, they are being more generous than most of us can afford. Why the hostility, particularly from anyone not in the 383 person list being called on to give more? Should the wealthy just be taxed more heavily to begin with? Probably. Does that mean we should bite the hand that’s trying to feed the world, out of spite and jealousy or disagreements with the tax code? Probably not.

  36. jimsr June 17, 2010 at 8:30 a.m.

    Gates made billions screwing the public and overpaying
    himself and now he wants to keep reminding us what a
    generous person he is.

  37. Steve Foerster June 17, 2010 at 8:55 a.m.

    Frank, you say that the tea party crowd doesn’t understand either giving or charity, but studies show that conservatives are more philanthropic than progressives, not less. Just because a person doesn’t think it’s the government’s place to redistribute wealth doesn’t mean that person isn’t interested in helping others. If you want to disagree with conservatives and libertarians that’s fair enough, but demonizing the opposition never leads to honest conversation.

  38. Jean SmilingCoyote June 17, 2010 at 9:02 a.m.

    Charity, shmarity. Most of the financial distress here connected to “the economy” and unemployment/underemployment is being suffered by people who aren’t now eligible for charitable help, which pointedly doesn’t do much for actual individuals, especially not in ways which will increase their taxable income. People mostly don’t want charitable help which just makes them more ‘comfortable’ being homeless or unemployed. A better use of the riches being discussed would be to bribe employers to hire all these people for suitable, good jobs at excellent, taxable salaries.

  39. Jerry H June 17, 2010 at 9:14 a.m.

    Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have CONSISTENTLY put their money where their mouths are. They have given away HUGE percentages of their personal wealth for the public good. Sure, it’s easy to donate billions of dollars when you have billions more, but this is still a very noble calling. Let’s admit it, the vast majority of Americans can afford to give a LOT more to charity than they do, yet they cry about the rich not doing enough. Remove the mote from your own eye first….

  40. Adrian Spencer June 17, 2010 at 10:32 a.m.

    Are you Hugo Chavez little brother? His adopted son? I think you should move back there.

  41. rushbo_the_hut June 17, 2010 at 10:46 a.m.

    Don’t expect ‘greed is good’ limbaugh to get the checkbook out anytime soon.