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Why did LA billionaire Ron Burkle pay Bill Clinton $15 million?

April 6, 2008 |  3:02 pm

There's an interesting nugget of political and financial information -- or, rather, missing information -- buried deep within the Hillary and Bill Clinton tax papers finally released the other day.

The struggling Clinton Democratic presidential campaign seemed to gloss over thiThe tax papers of Bill and Hillary Clinton show that Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle has paid the ex-president about $15 million for something in recent years but exactly what is not explaineds part when it released eight years of tax returns on Friday.

Our veteran blogging colleague Thomas Edsall, the political editor over at Huffington Post, points out that Bill Clinton has received something on the order of about $15 million in payments from local billionaire Ron Burkle since 2002.

The Los Angeles-based mogul has long been tied to the Clintons and has been one of the most prolific fundraisers for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign this past year.

In a press statement accompanying the release of the Clinton couple's tax returns, the campaign summarized where much of the couples' money came from over the last eight years -- a Senate salary, a presidential pension, some book royalties and a whopping sum of $51.9 million in speaking fees earned by President Clinton. And who wouldn't love to talk for that kind of money?

But glaringly missing from the summary, Edsall points out, is....

any mention of the $15 million in fees paid to the Clintons by Burkle's Yucaipa Global Opportunities Fund since 2002. Forbes magazine has listed Burkle as the 91st richest American in 2007.

The Clintons' ties to Burkle have drawn scrutiny for some time. Last fall, the Wall Street Journal reported one of the former president's aides had helped arrange a partnership between Burkle and a young Italian businessman named Raffaello Follieri.

That partnership later fell apart and Burkle sued Follieri for misusing funds to keep up a lavish lifestyle of fancy meals and rides on jets for him and his girlfriend, actress Anne Hathaway.

In his Huffington Post column, Edsall asks two important questions. Why did the campaign fail to mention that the former president received a good chunk of the family's income from the L.A. tycoon?

And, more importantly, what exactly do you suppose the former governor and former president could do for Burkle that would be worth that kind of very serious money that now rests in the Clinton family financial pot?

--Aamer Madhani

Aamer Madhani writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau.