By Ryan J. Donmoyer
April 5 (Bloomberg) — Former President Bill Clinton has earned $15.4 million from billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos. investment firm since 2003, according to tax documents released by his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The earnings represent 20 percent of the approximately $75 million Bill Clinton earned during the same period, according to the documents. That may raise new questions about what services he performed for Los Angeles-based Yucaipa, whose investors include the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al- Maktoum.
Tax lawyers said the Yucaipa partnership income for Bill Clinton looks to be a form of salary because it was in round numbers for most years.
“Most people who make that much money work for it,” said Yale University tax law professor Michael Graetz, a former Treasury Department official in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. “What are they being paid for, and if it’s the Sheikh of Dubai paying the husband of somebody who might be the next president of the United States, what do they think they’re paying for?”
Jay Carson, a spokesman for New York Senator Clinton, said in an e-mailed statement that former President Clinton is a partner in a Yucaipa fund and “provides his best advice on potential investments, advocates generally on behalf of the funds, and seeks to create opportunities for investors to consider investing in the fund.”
Carson didn’t respond to a question about whether Bill Clinton did any work for Dubai. In 2006 Senator Clinton opposed efforts by a Dubai-based company to acquire control over six U.S. ports.
The payments from Yucaipa to Bill Clinton were detailed in seven years of tax returns released by Hillary Clinton, 60, following pressure to disclose them from rival Barack Obama, the Illinois senator who made public his own returns in March.
The returns covered tax years 2000 through 2006. Hillary Clinton’s campaign also released information about the couple’s 2007 income, although they haven’t yet filed a return for that year. Obama has yet to release information on his 2007 income.
The former president, 61, received $1 million from Yucaipa in 2003, $4 million in 2004 and $5 million in 2005. In 2006, he received a guaranteed payment of $2.5 million plus a $156,611 share of the profits. The campaign said he earned $2.75 million from partnership income in 2007.
“The flat amounts received from Yucaipa are odd,” said Tom Ochsenschlager, vice president of taxation at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, who agreed that it signaled Bill Clinton was performing a service. “That’s quite unusual.”
Previously, Hillary Clinton reported only that the former president earned “more than $1,000” a year from Yucaipa on financial disclosure forms she is required to file in the Senate.
In all, the Clintons earned $109 million from 2000 through 2007 and paid $33.8 million in federal taxes, the returns and campaign documents show. They donated $10.3 million of their income over that time to charities.
The bulk of those charitable donations went to the family foundation. From 2002 through 2006, $5.9 million of the $6.4 million, or 93 percent, of the Clinton’s charitable giving went directly to the Clinton Family Foundation, according to the tax returns and the foundation’s 990 forms. The 990s for 2000 and 2001 were not immediately available and it has not yet filed for 2007.
Cayman Islands Funds
The tax returns indicate the couple paid all the U.S. federal taxes owed on the income from Yucaipa, which controls three funds located in the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands doesn’t charge any individual or corporate income tax and has strict bank secrecy laws.
Bill Clinton’s ties to Yucaipa have sparked controversy over the past year, including a September report in the Wall Street Journal that detailed how one of the former president’s aides had helped arrange a partnership with Burkle that dissolved amid litigation over allegations of misused funds.
Yucaipa spokesman Frank Quintero didn’t return calls seeking comment about what services Bill Clinton performed for the company. Forbes Magazine listed Burkle, 55, as the 91st richest American last year, with a net worth of $3.5 billion.
Carson said in December that the former president “is taking steps to ensure” that “there will be an appropriate transition from those relationships” if his wife receives the Democratic presidential nomination.
The 210 pages of documents released yesterday chronicle the Clintons’ rising income since 1999, the last year for which they had previously released a tax return. The couple earned $20.4 million last year, compared with less than $420,000 in 1999, the year before they left the White House.
The bulk of their income, $51.9 million, came from Bill Clinton’s speeches, the campaign said in a summary. The former president also earned $1.2 million from his presidential pension and $29.6 million from royalties and an advance for his autobiography.
Hillary Clinton earned $10.5 million in book royalties and advances and a total of $1.1 million from her Senate salaries since 2001. In 1999, the Clintons earned $417,467, had $334,681 in taxable income after deductions including $39,200 to charity, and paid $92,104 in federal taxes.
At a Democratic Party convention in Grand Forks, North Dakota, last night, Hillary Clinton said that her husband “has made a lot of money since he left the White House doing what he loves most, talking to people.”