Bill Clinton+Ron Burkle

President Clinton visits Ron Burkle at the billionaire’s Santa Monica beach house in 1997. Burkle told The Times this week in a rare interview that he’s still fond of Bill Clinton, though he’s skeptical of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Evan Halper
January 7, 2016

As Hillary Clinton and her surrogates scour the country for mega-donors, the one left-leaning billionaire they are not approaching is the one who knows the first couple more intimately than any of the others.

Ron Burkle figures that over the years, he’s raised about $10 million for the Clintons at his sprawling Beverly Hills estate. After Bill Clinton left the White House, he and Burkle jetted around the world in an unconventional partnership that netted the former president about $15 million and Burkle entree into the palaces and offices of world dignitaries. For years, when Clinton dropped into Los Angeles, he would only stay at “Ronnie’s” place, Greenacres, once owned by silent film star Harold Lloyd. Clinton was fond of the home and its history.

So what’s Burkle done for the Clintons lately? Nothing.

“They never asked me for a penny,” he said of Hillary Clinton’s campaign during a rare interview in his West Hollywood office that touched on his dim outlook toward Hillary as a candidate, Bill’s post-presidential role with Burkle’s investment firm and what, exactly, happened on those plane rides.

The festering weirdness between the California billionaire and the Clintons might have drifted out of sight but for Burkle’s decision to start raising campaign funds for a candidate other than Hillary Clinton. He’s co-hosting a fundraiser this month for Republican John Kasich at Soho House in West Hollywood.

Burkle says he might decide in the end to back Clinton – or he might not. The billionaire who counts supermodel Gisele Bundchen among his best friends, who helped the FBI investigate a New York Post gossip columnist suspected of trying to shake him down, who jets around the globe in a private 757, says Hillary Clinton just isn’t re-creating the magic of her husband.

“People would expect Bill Clinton-style love and attention,” he said. “That is not going to happen with her.”

Burkle lumps Hillary Clinton in with a group of well-meaning Democratic presidential nominees who faltered. Like Al Gore and John F. Kerry — candidates Burkle robustly supported — she is brilliant but troublingly disconnected with the electorate, he says.

“As much as I like Gore, Kerry and [Hillary] Clinton, nobody can ever remember what they stand for,” he said. “They overcomplicate it. … They don’t win on vision — they make it too complicated. They don’t win on likability.” He says President Obama has been a bitter disappointment, failing to deliver on his promise to work with Republicans.

Bill Clinton, though, he says he still adores despite what looked like a very public breakup.

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