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As Hollywood hotshots protest the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel over its ownership by Brunei's sultan -- and his recent full-fledged embrace of Islamic law -- it turns out the Brunei government has financial connections to another American institution: The Clinton Foundation.
The nonprofit foundation lists Brunei alongside Kuwait, Oman and Qatar as donors that gave between $1 million and $5 million through last year. The foundation confirmed the donation from Brunei was made in 2002, in connection with the construction of the Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas.
"The Clinton Foundation's impact would not be possible without the generous support of our donors," the foundation's website reads. "Their contributions have made a difference in the lives of tens of millions across the world."
The contribution could prove an uncomfortable detail in the foundation's financial records, particularly as Hillary Clinton weighs a possible presidential run. Though The Clinton Foundation has thus far avoided any major controversy over the matter, a Brunei connection has caused headaches for the Beverly Hills Hotel on the other side of the country.
Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has come under heavy criticism since the ultra-wealthy leader, who has been in power for decades, embraced a harsh Islamic penal code for his southeast Asian nation of roughly 408,000 residents. The change would make adultery, abortion and same-sex relationships offenses punishable by ancient methods -- flogging, or even stoning.
The development led Beverly Hills’ city council to unanimously pass a resolution calling for Brunei to change its laws or divest its ownership of the iconic hotel property, which opened in 1912 and has since been designated a historic landmark. Affectionately known as the “Pink Palace,” the hotel boasts 208 rooms over 12 acres, including a presidential suite for $20,000 nightly and a seven-day minimum stay.
A growing number of Hollywood groups and luminaries have since relocated events typically held at the hotel in protest, including the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Barbara Davis Carousel of Hope. Celebrities including Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres have also called for boycotts of the hotel.
“This is 2014, not 1814,” Leno, the former “Tonight Show” host, told dozens of protesters earlier this month.
Leno told The Los Angeles Times that local residents had been too absorbed by the controversy surrounding Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his remarks on race to properly pay attention to the Brunei developments.
“I mean, we get so upset when a team owner says something inappropriate,” Leno told the newspaper. “Here are people being killed, stoned to death. ... It's just a matter of priorities, that's what it is.”
It's unclear whether the Clinton Foundation would consider returning its own Brunei donation, but a statement from the foundation said it does not anticipate any more.
"The Foundation received a one-time donation from the government of Brunei in 2002. We have not received any additional donations from them since, and we do not expect any in the future," the statement said.
In total, the Clinton Foundation has received at least $492 million since its inception in 1997 through 2007. Other notable names or entities within the high-donation bracket include filmmaker Steven Spielberg, the Boeing Company and The Walmart Foundation.
Meanwhile, the Beverly Hills Hotel reportedly tapped a former Clinton aide to perform damage control in the growing saga. Mark Fabiani, known for his aggressive style during the Clinton administration, was hired last week to oversee crisis management, Politico reported.
In 2008, the Clinton Foundation disclosed the names of its 205,000 donors, ending a decade of resistance to identifying the sources of its money. Some 12,000 donors gave $10 or less, while at least $46 million was received from Saudi Arabia (which also imposes strict Islamic law), Norway and other foreign governments.
The New York Times reported recently on alleged financial issues at the foundation, and said Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton were readying for a $250 million fundraising push.