Warren Buffett: The Darker Truth

June 28, 2006

When someone donates tens of billions of dollars to charitable work, it seems out of sorts to malign his or her character. Nonetheless, upon the announcement that Warren Buffett, the world’s second-richest man, the “Oracle of Omaha,” was to donate 85 percent of his multi-billion dollar worth to the foundation headed by the world’s number one richest man, Bill Gates, pundits began to discuss what sinister agenda might exist behind Buffett’s astounding donation. By the end of the story’s rounds on talk shows Tuesday, it appeared that most agreed that it was a huge contribution to the cause of world health and to Bill Gates’ self-proclaimed initiative to eradicate the world’s twenty most deadly diseases.

However, another angle struggled futilely to rise to prominence in course of dissecting Buffett’s philanthropy—his heretofore unpublicized philanthropic history. And that is in fact a rather controversial one. While his money in the hands of the Gates Foundation will be targeted at initiatives to save lives, it has for years funded abortion rights and family planning through the Susan Buffett Foundation named for his late wife. And in addition to the $31 billion going to the Gates Foundation, Mr. Buffett is also putting $3 billion more in funds into his late wife’s foundation.

Have you ever heard of the Susan Buffett Foundation’s massive support of abortion rights? If not, you are in the majority. The foundation has kept an extremely low profile in the past. But that is out of proportion with the extent of its monetary support for the pro-choice agenda. Support for activism has paled in comparison the monies directed to more substantive “reproductive rights” projects. The foundation was key in funding research on the RU-486 abortion pill, and has provided crucial funding for the training of a new generation of doctors to perform abortions at a time when many are getting out of the business as it were. Furthermore, “the foundation awards grants to chapters of Planned Parenthood like most foundations award grants to affiliates of United Way or the Red Cross. More than 100 PP affiliates received grants ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 during the last three years.”

This broad support of abortion rights has been a boon to that movement. In fact, many abortion rights leaders consider the support of the Susan Buffett Foundation to be the glue that has kept their cause together in the face of the comparatively huge funding that the Right pours into pro-life campaign. It has served as a literal “lifeline” according Ellen Chessler of Planned Parenthood. And will the additional $3 billion, this “lifeline” should become considerably more robust.

Notes: I recommend hearing this piece by NPR’s Julie Rovner.
See this page for a fact sheet on the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.