Former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the unlikely duo that has proved to be a fundraising colossus on behalf of disaster victims, announced yesterday they would give $90 million from their Hurricane Katrina relief fund to universities, faith-based groups and other rebuilding efforts along the devastated Gulf Coast.
Bush and Clinton, who were tapped in September by President George W. Bush to lead a fundraising effort for hurricane victims, have raised $100 million in their Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.
Yesterday, on the campus of the still-closed University of New Orleans, Bush and Clinton announced that $30 million would go to 32 universities and colleges along the Gulf Coast.
The money, they said, would go toward reconstruction, assisting students displaced by the storm and paying salaries to retain faculty.
Tulane University, whose campus was heavily damaged by the storm, will receive $750,000, said university spokesman Mike Strecker. "We're very grateful for that."
Other schools said yesterday that they had not been told how much they would receive. But they said any amount would be welcome.
Xavier University, located on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, needs $90 million to rebuild, spokesman Warren Bell said.
"The campus took extensive damage," he said. "We were dealt a heck of a blow."
Bush and Clinton also said $20 million will go to local faith-based organizations and $40 million will be divided among the state recovery funds of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Some nonprofit organizations along the Gulf Coast have been grumbling that it took Bush and Clinton more than three months to announce how the money would be used.
Meg Lousteau, director of the Louisiana Landmarks Society, a nonprofit preservation organization in New Orleans, said she was disappointed that more of the money wasn't going directly to Gulf Coast residents.
"There's not a bad place to give money," she said. "Everybody needs money. [But] I was hoping they would allocate money to the property owners" who need to rebuild before they can move back in.
George Penick, president of the Foundation for the MidSouth, said he was concerned that giving money to the state's rebuilding funds would simply replace government dollars.
"How do we make sure that the private philanthropic dollars don't get subsumed into, or replace, government dollars?" he asked.
The Katrina fund is the second successful fundraising foray by the two former presidents.
This year, Bush and Clinton also led a drive that raised more than $1 billion to aid victims of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunamis.
As they did with their tsunami fundraising, the former presidents threw themselves into the effort with campaign-style ferocity, thumbing through their formidable phone lists and leaning on the powerful and the famous.
Pop artist Peter Max designed posters for the Katrina fund. And among the many corporate, political and sports figures who contributed was 16-year-old golfing phenomenon Michelle Wie, who gave a $500,000 check to the Bush-Clinton fund, then played a round of golf with Clinton.
The Katrina fund even benefited indirectly from recent Washington scandals. In October, Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio) handed over to the effort a $13,000 contribution that he had received from a PAC run by indicted former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) to "remove any questions" about DeLay's contribution to his campaign.