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Anschutz's $23 million tops donors in Colorado
CU prof Caruther second on charitable giving list

By Joanne Kelley
Rocky Mountain News
Saturday, February 23, 2008

It takes giving more than $1 billion to charity to be named among the most generous philanthropists in the country these days.

In Colorado, it takes $23 million.

Denver financier Phil Anschutz tops the Rocky Mountain News' first list of the state's biggest living charitable donors, narrowly edging out University of Colorado professor Marvin Caruther's $20 million gift for a new biotechnology laboratory on the school's Boulder campus.

It required a donation of $1.2 billion for William Barron Hilton to lead the Chronicle of Philanthropy's top 50 list for 2007.  Another hotel baron, Leona Helmsley, would have leapfrogged that with a $4 billion bequest had her estate been settled in time.

Unlike in past years, no Coloradan made the Chronicle's annual cut because it took parting with $38 million to gain a spot.

Still, the state's biggest donors help set an example, especially in a state with such a high proportion of newcomers and a lack of generations of Carnegies and large corporations, according to Denver Foundation President David Miller.

"Our community is fortunate to have many generous philanthropists," Miller said.  "Nobody has to do this, and it can inspire others who aren't doing it yet to do the same."

Software entrepreneur Tim Gill, with his foundation's annual grants of $11.5 million, ranks third on the Rocky's Philanthropic Five list.  Carrie and John Morgridge's $10 million gift to the University of Denver and cable magnate John Malone's foundation grants of $9.9 million round out the rankings.

Not that inclusion on a list necessarily counts among the chief motivations of these givers.  None of them agreed to an interview request for this article.  Tax filings and information published in the past year provided the basis for the Rocky's list, which attempts to include the biggest donations but might have missed some nonetheless.

Some observers say that, despite apparently generous giving to various causes, the affluent -- particularly those worth billions of dollars -- give away far less than they can afford.

"Society is wrong to praise wealthy people who give away money unless they give away substantial amounts of money," said Gregg Easterbrook, author of the Progress Paradox and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.  "The wealthy's main attitude toward money continues to be greed."

Easterbrook contends that Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, who has given billions to charity already, doesn't need to keep tens of billions of dollars for himself.  Even someone with a mere $1 billion in net worth "couldn't get rid of all his money even if he did nothing but spend it all day long."

Studies consistently show that lower-income people give away a much bigger percentage of their income than the rich do.  But the bulk of charitable giving still comes from well-off donors.

"Wealthy people have the wealth, and, if it weren't for their giving, the charitable sector would be scrambling more for resources," said Rick Cohen, who writes for the Nonprofit Quarterly and formerly headed the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

"But the question still remains:  Are the wealthy people as generous as they might be?  Not by a long shot," Cohen said. or 303-954-5068