Protocols of the Benevolent Elders of Philanthropy?

Irish Central is reporting that a handful of the world’s richest philanthropists met in a top-secret May 5 meeting at Rockefeller University in New York to discus how they could help heal the fallout from the global financial crisis.

There are virtually no details available about the meeting — which was blacked out to the media — aside from that it was called by Warren Buffet.

The attendees – among them Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner and David Rockefeller — were invite only and each was given 15 minutes to talk about a philanthropic problem.

Among the Jewish philanthropists who attended: George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Ely and Edyth Broad.

From Irish Central:

The mysterious, media-blackout meeting was called by Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire-Hathaway; Bill Gates, co founder of Microsoft; and David Rockefeller Jr., chairman of Rockefeller Financial Services.

In addition to Gates, Buffett and Rockefeller, the attendees included Oprah Winfrey, George Soros, Ted Turner, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, among others.

It was held in the President’s Room at Rockefeller University In New York at 3 p.m. on that Tuesday afternoon.

How so many giant figures in American life managed to interrupt and coordinate their schedules on such short notice, and meet in total secrecy in the world’s media capital remains a mystery — as does the ultimate outcome of the billionaires’ conference.

In their letter of invitation, Gates, Buffett and Rockefeller cited the worldwide recession and the urgent need to plan for the future. They said they wanted to hear the views of a broad range of key leaders in the financial and philanthropic fields.

(No. I am not a regular reader of Irish Central. I found the story at the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s site.)

The blog Everythingwarrenbuffet fleshes out the story a bit further:

"Nonprofits are going through a difficult time. The endowments of many foundations have dropped significantly," said Palmer. "Many people are not as able to give as much money as the used to."

They are making a statement that donors should continue to give. They are likely planning on a sending a message that philanthropy needs to continue worldwide," she said.

Few of the participants, Palmer said, gave money quietly and she anticipated that the secret meeting was the first step in a plan that would eventually be made public.

A number of other people attended the meeting including: Winfrey, worth $2.7 billion, who donated some $50 million in 2007; Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Mayor of New York City, who is worth $11.5 billion and donated $205 million from 2007 to 2008; financier Eli Broad who donated $100 million in 2008; and financier Peter Peterson, who gave away $215 million in 2008.

And the New York Times blog has a bit more:

“It was a private meeting,” said Karen Denne, a spokesman for the Broad Foundation, which runs Mr. Broad’s charitable efforts.

“Essentially it was a brainstorming session where people who are very charitable talked about charity in today’s economic climate,” said an assistant to one of the participants, who was told about the discussion but asked not to be identified because of the request for secrecy.

The participants all have reputations as philanthropists, and many have teamed up on causes in the past. Mr. Buffet, for instance, recently pledged to donate the bulk of his fortune, currently estimated at $37 billion, to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together the members of the meeting had donated more than $72.5 billion to charitable causes since 1996, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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