Warren Buffett and the Changing Face of Philanthropy Warren Buffett's recent decision to give away about $36 billion of his fortune is unprecedented, and so is the fact that more than $30 billion goes to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Guests discuss what happens when private institutions grow bigger, wealthier and more powerful than public agencies.
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Warren Buffett and the Changing Face of Philanthropy

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Warren Buffett and the Changing Face of Philanthropy

Warren Buffett and the Changing Face of Philanthropy

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Warren Buffett's decision to give most of his fortune away is news on a number of different levels. The shear size of the gift is unprecedented, about $36 billion. And so is the fact that the lion's share of that money - more than $30 billion - goes to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Usually, philanthropists endow causes close their own hearts, but in this case, Warren Buffett says he saw an opportunity to invest in a well-respected foundation run by two people he described as ungodly bright.

Once it's complete, Buffett's gift could double the endowment of the Gates Foundation, which is already the biggest in the world, which raises another set of questions. The Gates Foundation is already the largest donor on public health issues. Its global health money is largely responsible, for example, for funding research into vaccines like malaria, tuberculosis, acute diarrhea. Its funds swamp the amounts available through the United Nations agency, UNISCO.

In its own way, it already wields power on a global scale. And we should point out that the Gates Foundation also helps to support National Public Radio on a much smaller scale.

What happens when private institutions grow bigger, wealthier, and more powerful than public agency? Who watches over such a gigantic foundation? Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

Later in the program, Al-Jazeera is on the TALK OF THE NATION Opinion Page. A former Nightline producer argues that plans for an international, English language version of the Arab world's cable news outlet is being met with hostility.

But first, philanthropy and foundations. And we begin with Dwight Burlingame, a Professor of Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University. He's with us by phone from his office in Indianapolis.

Nice to have you on the program today.

Professor DWIGHT BURLINGAME (Philanthropic Studies, Indiana University): It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

CONAN: First of all, how does this gift compare to any other gifts in the past?

Prof. BURLINGAME: Well, it's certainly the largest, as you mentioned. And it is setting new ground, I think, because of the way that it is being given, that is to another philanthropist who's working in an area of similar interest.

CONAN: Yeah. Normally, you'd expect your fortune, for example, to go to the Burlingame Foundation.

Prof. BURLINGAME: Exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Prof. BURLINGAME: And in this case - but, you know, I guess we shouldn't be surprised when we understand that Warren Buffett, in his life, has been figuring out who can do what the best. And I think this is another example of that. He thinks that Bill and Melinda have done the best so far, and are doing the best. And so, why not invest in their work? Because that'll be much more efficient than it is if I, you know, did it all and recreated it by setting up my own foundation.

CONAN: He also said that he had planned that his wife, Susan, would, in fact, oversee the disbursement of his vast wealth. But she died in 2004, and that's when he changed his mind.


CONAN: Now. The size of the Gates Foundation, if all of this money comes, there's a whole bunch of stipulations - it doesn't all come at once. But if it all comes, this is an unbelievable, unprecedented foundation.

Prof. BURLINGAME: Yes. And I think it means, however - when you think about it - means two things. You always have to put these in prospective. One is that, still private giving, even with this large gift, is hovering around the two percent of the economy...

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Prof. BURLINGAME: ...in terms of personal income that is given for whatever causes - is representing as a part of our economy. It's around two percent. Has been that way for a long time. So I think it is a lot of money, but in the totality of things, it's not such a large amount of money.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Prof. BURLINGAME: And secondly, you know, it is - when you compare it to how much government uses and spends every year, it's still a very small amount of money.

CONAN: Yet it creates an institution that has a great deal of wealth, and within its sphere, a great deal of power.

Prof. BURLINGAME: Sure. I think private philanthropy has that potential. But it's a very important one when we think about it for purposes of the opportunity to challenge what might be prevalent policy. So, having private philanthropy advocate for a cause, whatever it might be...

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Prof. BURLINGAME: ...is really important in our - if you will - the commons of our discourse in the democratic, capitalist society. So we need that check, if you will. And in this case, then you can ask the question: are there enough checks and balances? Is there enough transparency, in terms of this oversight? And I think the Congress, in its current actions, along with other ways in which we invest with - that is the Gates Foundation's investing in a lot of different non profits to carry out their mission...

CONAN: Right.

Prof. BURLINGAME: ...around the globe. So they're all calling that same kind of, you know, accountability to them as they challenge them to do a particular activity.

CONAN: Yeah. And...

Prof. BURLINGAME: Or leverage a particular activity.

CONAN: Well, again, one of the things that we've all heard is that without the money provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - that there is very little economic incentive for big drug companies to work on things like, you know, a malaria vaccine, which on the face of it, seems to be a pretty good thing.

Prof. BURLINGAME: Yes, exactly.

CONAN: So if that kind of money can make that kind of difference, but does it take the pressure off international institutions and national institutions, who are - whose purpose is, indeed, to try to find good places to fund?

Prof. BURLINGAME: Well, you know, I guess, you might be, in this respect, thinking about the United Nations and UNESCO and in terms of their efforts when you ask that question. If anything, I think it puts more pressure on, primarily because of the recognition that this is being done through philanthropy, in order - and a philanthropy is usually - is being used as a lever to pressure governments...

CONAN: Mm hmm

Prof. BURLINGAME: ...and other entities, global entities, into addressing this issue. So in that sense, I think, we have a real focus of the governments on a problem.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Prof. BURLINGAME: And therefore, are more inclined probably to do more, and to enter to involve philanthropy. Now, they may decrease what they're doing on something else.

CONAN: Right. They may move money around. But in any case, they might be challenged to match the funds, at least in some respect.

We'd like, of course, your thoughts on this. Give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

We have a call in from Joe. Joe is with us from Nashville, Tennessee.

JOE (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

JOE: My - first of all, I think this is a wonderful thing. And I don't think the media can accurately capture it, get beyond the quantification of how much, how big, how wonderful. But I think this is a great thing the Gates Foundation is doing and Warren Buffett is doing.

My concern is about the privatization of charities. There's a lot of members of the conservative movement, the Grover Norquists, a lot of the conservative evangelical movement groups, that believe that charity is not the place of the government, and this greatly concerns me. It ought to shame our government.

The problem I have - the major problem I have with it is that this is one person controlling a lot of money, and his priorities may change. He made decide he's concerned more about gay marriage, say, than AIDS.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

JOE: That could happen. It's - really we need to maintain the focus of charity from our government that will allow the voters, also, to decide how our government contributes, and that was my comment.

CONAN: Okay, Joe, and I assume by changing his mind from something you believe is beneficial to something that you're critical of, you're not questioning - it's his money. He can give it to whatever he wants. Right?

JOE: Absolutely.

CONAN: Okay, I just wanted to get that in. And Dwight Burlingame, I guess that's what you were just talking about.

Prof. BURLINGAME: Exactly. I think it is the beauty of a democratic democracy in which philanthropy plays a role to provide a check not only to business or the commercial sector, but provides a check to government, and so that by the fact that its primary role is really advocacy for something that you believe in that the median voter may not agree with.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. BURLINGAME: And therefore we have the discourse of the ideas, and we have the experimentation, and then it is often taken over by government. And so - and philanthropy can play that role much better, because it can experiment with addressing a particular issue where government doesn't have that - in democracy - doesn't have that freedom to do because, you know, the officials are - have to, in some sense, manage the interests of the average person.

CONAN: Right.

Prof. BURLINGAME: So, therefore, they allocate tax dollars for those purposes that the majority agree upon. So...

JOE: (Unintelligible)

Prof. BURLINGAME: So I think that's a very important role for philanthropy.


JOE: And, of course, if we limit our preemptive wars, we'll have more money for charity instead of smart bombs and, you know, uranium-depleted ammunition.

CONAN: All right, Joe. Thanks very much for the phone call.

JOE: Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: We just heard mentions of democracy, and, of course, foundations are not inherently democratic institutions. Joining us now is Pablo Eisenberg, a Senior Fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, a regular columnist for the Chronicle of Philanthropy. He's with us today by phone from his home in Washington, D.C. And nice to speak with you as well today.

Professor PABLO EISENBERG (Senior Fellow, Georgetown Public Policy Institute): Good to be on board.

CONAN: So foundations, well, they tend to make their decisions in pretty closed circles.

Prof. EISENBERG: Well, that's true. And one has to remember that their boards of directors are, basically, elite. They represent the wealthiest and most highly paid professionals in the country, and they rarely have as board members people who are teachers, ministers, grassroots leaders, social workers, union people, and small business people.

CONAN: So while they're - they may have idealistic goals, they may not have the right information some of the time.

Prof. EISENBERG: Well, they - it also certainly influences their priorities, and in - for many foundations, mainstream foundations, it's hard for them to, given who they are, to attack the system. For example, there is very, very little foundation money goes into these checks and balances that Dwight was talking about.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. EISENBERG: They're almost no grants given to look at the free enterprise system, its excesses, its corruption, in some cases. There's very little money that goes into watchdog groups that are meant to hold government and other institutions accountable, so that's not by accident.


Prof. EISENBERG: It's because, I think, we have foundations that really don't want to go to those areas.

CONAN: We'll have more on this after we come back from a short break. If you'd like to join us, our number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail us, talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan. This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet plans to give some $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an incredible amount of money for any one organization, about double the endowment it already has.

Our guests are Dwight Burlingame, professor of philanthropic studies at Indiana University; also, Pablo Eisenberg, a Senior Fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, a regular columnist for the journal the Chronicle of Philanthropy. And, of course, you're invited to join us. We'd especially like to hear from those of you who work with philanthropic groups. Give us a call, 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

Pablo Eisenberg, just before the break, you were saying that foundations are sort of institutionally set up to, well, celebrate the wonderful system that gave them all that money rather than question the system from which it came. Of course, you're talking about foundations in general, not specifically the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But also, you're talking about an organization with this amount of money and power, an organization that we don't see how it works, necessarily. It lacks, I guess, the term of art is transparency.

Prof. EISENBERG: Well, it's partly true. Although, I have to say that, I mean, Bill and Melinda Gates and Mr. Gates Sr. have done a wonderful job in (unintelligible) a lot of money to good causes. But when you look at who their governance setup is, you find that it's not even necessarily a board. It's an executive committee of Bill and Melinda Gates...

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Prof. EISENBERG: ...Bill Gates Sr. and Patty Stonesifer, who used to work as a senior executive at Microsoft. That's the governance. And it - there are no other board members. There are no board members who represent the public, and therefore, we are lucky, in this case, to have very responsible people. It could be the other case, that we could have, in a very wealthy foundation, folks or family members who are not so responsible.

And as you get bigger and bigger foundations, mega-foundations, as you will, with 25 billion, 50 billion, maybe 100 billion, you find a very few family members or wealthy members controlling a vast amount of money without any public discourse, with very little public accountability, and really controlling budgets that are larger than the size of almost all but 30 countries in the world. That's a disturbing aspect for democracy.

CONAN: It does raise a question, though, and, Dwight Burlingame, let me ask you about this, those foundations, precisely because they're not accountable to the public, or at least not in the same way as governments, they can do things that might be initially unpopular that might be good in the long run.

Prof. EISENBERG: That's true.

CONAN: Yeah.

Prof. BURLINGAME: Yes. And certainly, when you think about the fundamental principle of pluralism and providing for activities, you always take - I mean, a foundation is fundamentally a moral decision in the - when we think about democracy, it's a moral decision mechanism, if you will, where someone is making - interfering when - because we call philanthropy, let's say, if we use the definition of voluntary action intended for the public good, we're (unintelligible) - the individual whereas the foundation is interfering into the lives of others without their permission in the interest of the public good. And so determining what that public good is and how you represent that becomes a really important point.

So I think, you know, Pablo is right when he makes note of how do you assure the representation of the objects of your philanthropy being in this feedback mechanism, if you will. And one way to do that would be to have representatives of the representative groups that are being served by the philanthropy in your foundation board structure. That's one way.

But there are - I think there are other ways to do that, and that's what most foundations, in fact, do is try to take assessments. They hire experts, what we call philanthropods, if you will. I mean poids, philanthropoids. And they go about trying to assess this and get that kind of information, and so I think there are some other ways to try to accomplish this. I think it's always a concern, though...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. BURLINGAME: ...because we are talking about moral and ethical kinds of decisions. I mean, this is the issue with, stepping out of this case, but looking at George Soros, for example. I mean, the criticism of some has been that he is putting his private philanthropy in trying to influence a particular action by governments.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. BURLINGAME: And should he have the right to do that?

CONAN: Yeah. And as Pablo Eisenberg was pointing out, this new foundation, once all the money's there, and it'll be awhile, but it will be a lot larger than many countries around the world. And certainly issues of, well, even issues of sovereignty, Pablo Eisenberg. Don't they come into play here?

Prof. EISENBERG: Well, that's true. But I'd like to point out that Dwight's question is still really relevant. Who watches these private institutions? And because of the enormous tax benefits that foundation donors derive in setting up foundations, there is an obligation to be publicly accountable.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. EISENBERG: And the trustee of that accountability is the government, both the federal government and the state governments, through their attorney generals. Given the fact that there have been so many scandals over the last five years brought out in the media about the way a number of foundations have been run, charging - or giving trustees huge fees for just sitting on boards, numerous examples of self-dealing, excessive compensation, inappropriate expenditures, there is a need for government oversight and better enforcement. And that, unfortunately, is an issue on which many, many foundations are opposed to tighter regulations and tighter enforcement.

CONAN: Let's turn to somebody who knows a little bit about that. Jill Manny, Director of the National Center on Philanthropy at New York University. She joins us now from NPR's bureau in New York City. Nice to have you on the program as well.

Professor JILL MANNY (Executive Director, National Center on Philanthropy): Well, it's nice to be here.

CONAN: And as we just heard mentioned, Congress and various states have passed laws on how foundations can operate in this country. What kinds of guidelines do they have to follow?

Prof. MANNY: Well, accountability is an issue, particularly for private foundations. And it's an issue that Congress has been aware of since 1969 when it enacted laws that imposed restrictions on private foundations that don't apply to public charities.

The distinction between a private foundation and a public charity, for example, would be comparing the Gates Foundation, which is not publicly funded and therefore Congress concluded not publicly accountable, or as publicly accountable. If you compare that, for example, to the Red Cross. If the Red Cross does something that the public doesn't like, which has happened a few times recently...

CONAN: Yeah.

Prof. MANNY: ...the public stops giving money to the Red Cross. That doesn't happen in the private foundation arena. If you don't like what Bill Gates is doing, absolutely nothing is going to happen, but - as far as what the foundation can do. So the government, in 1969, enacted rules, at least at the federal level, and what they do is to set up the Internal Revenue Service as the policer...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. MANNY: ...of the border. Where the public can police public charities, they can't police private foundations. And the sorts of restrictions that these rules, which are implemented through the Internal Revenue Code, impose on private foundations are limitations on activities that private foundations can engage in.

For example, they can't lobby, whereas public charities can engage in a fair amount of lobbying. There are restrictions on the types of investments that they can hold, and there are restrictions on transactions between people who control private foundation and the private foundation.

CONAN: And let me just ask you, and I'm sure there are others, but given these mega-foundations that we're talking about now, and 60 billion is certainly - fits that description, do you think the rules need to be rewritten?

Prof. MANNY: I think that there are - there is need - to some extent, I think that the rules are there...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. MANNY: ...but there's not enough human power, either at the state level or at the federal government level, to enforce the rules.

CONAN: To actually do anything about it, right.

Prof. MANNY: There's just not enough money in the Internal Revenue Service to audit every foundation every year.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. MANNY: So I think that some of the rules are there. I think that we may need to tighten up some of the rules in some areas, but there are rules that have been in effect for - for several decades, that if enforced I think could go a long way toward forcing some sort of accountability.

CONAN: Let's get some more listeners involved in the conversations. Mel. Mel's calling us from Berkeley, California.

MEL (Caller): Yes. Thank you very much for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

MEL: I think that all of this sounds - pretty much ignoring the fact that they are setting a remarkably great example of generosity and good citizenship. When you compare to some famous, rich people who make a fetish out of showing how rich they are and of conspicuous consumption and greed and ostentation, this is remarkable to see people who are contributing their wealth to good causes. And I don't want to, I really don't understand why people niggle about that. I think that it sets a wonderful example of how people should handle their money and to turn it toward public good.

I'm reminded that in some European countries, people who are generous are considered the highest people and who are thought of very highly in the society. And I think if Americans think that way now, it will be wonderful change in the atmosphere of the country. Many people come to mind who are so ostentation. I mean the bling-blings and the yachts and all that sort of thing. If we change the American's attitude toward what money is for, I think this will be a wonderful change in the spirit of the country. And I compliment the Gateses and their friends who are thinking in a very public spirited way. And I think they should be complimented and admired, and maybe the rest of the country should follow their lead.

CONAN: Dwight Burlingame, I guess that goes back to the two percent that we end up giving for these purposes.

MEL: Well, it doesn't matter what percent it is. It's the spirit of the thing. If the idea is that we are rich and you feed it back into the country, that's the important thing. Not just what is flamboyant and tries to be - show you're pigginess.

CONAN: But Dwight Burlingame was talking earlier about maybe people would take this as a model, as an inspiration, as Mel is suggesting.

MEL: Exactly.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Mel.

MEL: Thanks very much for the program.

CONAN: All right. Bye, bye. Let's go to Jerry, and Jerry's with us from Burlington in Vermont.

JERRY (Caller): Yeah, I'm proud to say that what I'm about to say will be the most unpopular call you'll get or anybody will get today. I am not really impressed by this. I'm not impressed by Paul Newman. I want to know how much of this they're taking off on their taxes, and when they're fabulous billionaires, I think there's more than just I'm a nice guy going here. I'm much more impressed by people - I'm not against the fact that they're giving money to poor people, if that's what actually happens. But I'm much more impressed with somebody who'll take five or ten dollars out of his pocket, or her pocket and give it to somebody's who's really destitute.

CONAN: Well, let's ask a couple of question about that. Jill Manny, this is a tax break if you give this money away, right?

Prof. MANNY: Well, it's a tax break, but it's very unlikely that they're getting any significant amount of income tax deduction.

CONAN: Go ahead.

Prof. MANNY: That they're getting very - any significant amount of income tax deduction for their contributions, because of the internal revenue code limits the amount of charitable income tax deductions...

CONAN: There's a cap law.

Prof. MANNY: Can take, based on adjusted gross income. So my guess is they're not getting any meaningful income tax deductions. This is altruism. It's altruism, and they do get some gift tax breaks. In other words, they don't have to pay the transfer tax on the gift because they're giving it to a charity. But if you're concerned about the fact that they're doing this only for a income tax deduction, I don't think that that's likely.

CONAN: We're talking about the astonishing gift of Warren Buffet to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. If it all goes through, $30 billion. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get another caller on. Kelly. Kelly's with us from Eagle Grove in Iowa.

KELLY (Caller): Hello. Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure Kelly, go ahead.

KELLY: I just wondered if you think that the public could've been better served by those two gentlemen not making so much money in the first place. Warren Buffet owns lots of electric companies. Lower your bill by half. Not make so much money on every computer and put more money in the hands of every American. Wouldn't that have done more work?

CONAN: I guess that's a debatable point, Pablo Eisenberg.

Prof. EISENBERG: Well, it is debatable, and there are some businessmen who operate at a very responsible level and are fair. And then there are others who make enormous profits that perhaps they don't deserve. On the other hand, given the fact we're in a free enterprise system, giving away money through philanthropy is an important aspect of our society, particularly because it does serve as a potential break on other sectors. It does permit individuals and universities to do research and to start initiatives that would not be funded by government so that it is an alternative source that government by its nature cannot fund. So I don't think it's one thing or the other.

So I think what we need to do, certainly in terms of corporate America, is we've got to insist on better regs and less excessive compensation and more moral behavior, and better governance.

CONAN: Kelly, thanks very much for the call. Here's an email question from Stacey in Gatesville, Maryland. I was just wondering if your guests thought there was any correlation between Mr. Gates' recent decision to run the foundation full time and Mr. Buffet's decision to donate such a huge sum of money to the foundation. What do you think, Jill Manny?

Prof. MANNY: I don't know the answer to that.

CONAN: Dwight Burlingame?

Prof. BURLINGAME: No, I don't think there's any connection. I think it's just coincidence. Certainly Mr. Buffet was considering this move, you know, in the last several months. I don't think he was aware himself of the recent move on the part of Bill Gates, Jr. And the more important, I think, event was really the fact of the - Susie's death, who - that is his wife, Warren Buffet's wife.

CONAN: Susan Buffet, yes.

Prof. BURLINGAME: Yeah, Susan, who died before Warren, obviously. And his, in their plan, she was going to be running, you know, the foundation and distributing his wealth upon his death, because women live longer than men. And I mean that was the rationale. And while that didn't work out in this case, and I think ever since that's happened, which now I think is about two years ago, he's been thinking about how he's going to - what he's going to do. So I think this was all a happenstance in terms of the timing. Plus, if you go back to some of his admiration - that is, Warren's - Mister...

CONAN: Buffet's admiration for Mr. Gates.

Prof. BURLINGAME: Yes. That it was a case of the last 10 years at least that this has been going on.

CONAN: We'll take a couple more questions on this general subject when we come back from a short break. Also be discussing Al-Jazeera International and the reception it's received. You're listening to NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

In a few minutes our regular Monday segment, the TALK OF THE NATION Opinion Page. But we wanted to wrap up our conversation first on the extraordinary gift of Warren Buffett to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which would double its endowment to about $60 billion. Our guests are Dwight Burlingame, Professor of Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University. Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and a regular columnist for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Jill Manny, who is a professor at NYU School of Law and executive director of the National Center on Philanthropy.

Let's get another caller on the line. This is Patricia. Patricia is calling us from Cincinnati.

PATRICIA (Caller): Hello?

CONAN: Hi. You're on the air, Patricia.

PATRICIA: I would just like to give many words of praise for the Bill Gates Foundation, which I believe should not be overseen. There's certainly, I believe, should not be government, any government regulation, for this reason. I'm a medical educator. I've been watching the lack of health care policy at the level of the United States government for a long, long time. What Bill Gates has done is he has decided what his goal is, which is to make health care available to those areas where it's very limited right now.

CONAN: Uh-huh.

PATRICIA: And the approach that he used was really the approach of a scientist. He looked at problems like malaria, for example, and decided what would be the best way to handle that problem. And he went to the level of preventive care. This country functions Third World-like relative to the importance of preventive care in order to keep people from getting ill. And I believe that this would not be a favored approach if there was any government regulation. He's doing it because he thinks it's the smartest way to do it.

PATRICIA: Pablo Eisenberg, is there any push to get government more involved?

Prof. EISENBERG: Well, the point is that Bill Gates, like - and his folks at the foundation, have an obligation just like every other foundation, to be publicly accountable, to be transparent, and to - because of their tax benefits, to obey the rules and regulations that apply to foundations. And that's an obligation also that the U.S. government has, to make sure that the Gates Foundation is run properly. There's no doubt in my mind that it's not run properly, that's it's doing exceedingly good job, but it still has to play by the rules.

CONAN: That was a double negative in there meaning there's no doubt in your mind that they do a operate properly?


CONAN: Okay. Good.

Prof. EISENBERG: Thank you.

Prof. EISENBERG: All right. Patricia, thanks very much for the phone call. We appreciate it.


CONAN: And let's see if we get one more caller in on this. This is going to be David, David calling from Newburyport in Massachusetts.

DAVID (Caller): Hi, Neal.


DAVID: I was just wondering. I'm always confused by foundations that are essentially based on large gifts of stock. What happens if the stock goes down? I mean - and then also when the foundations make gifts, don't they have to sell the stock, and isn't that likely to suppress the price?

CONAN: Jill Manny, can you help us out here?

Prof. MANNY: There are restrictions on private foundations holding stock for extended periods of time, if its too much stock in one particular company. So eventually there's a phase and they will be required to sell the stock. As far as if the price goes down and they sell the stock, obviously they'll have less money than they thought they would. And I don't know what's happened in the market today as far as the shares.

CONAN: Down a little bit.

Prof. MANNY: That's what I heard, yes.

CONAN: Yeah. All right. David, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

DAVID: Okay.

CONAN: And we'll have to see, I think there's an interview that's going to be on public television tonight with Charlie Rose and the two principles involved here: the Gateses and the Buffets. So you may find out more about that later today.

Thanks to our guests. Dwight Burlingame, appreciate your time today.

Prof. BURLINGAME: Thank you.

CONAN: Dwight Burlingame, a professor of philanthropic studies at Indiana University. Pablo Eisenberg, at Georgetown University, thank you.

Prof. EISENBERG: Thank you.

CONAN: And Jill Manny at NYU School of Law, and executive director of the National Center on Philanthropy, thanks for joining us from our bureau in New York today.

Prof. MANNY: Thank you.

CONAN: The Opinion Page, when we come back.

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