The “Face” of a Charity- Jerry Lewis vs. Bill & Hill


While Jerry Lewis has a list of accomplishments that include actor, screenwriter, film director, comedian, producer, television director, and partner of Dean Martin; one of the things he’s most associated with is his charitable work in raising money to help fight Muscular Dystrophy. Over a period of 45 years Jerry has served as the MDA spokesman, national chair, and master of ceremonies for their famous, 24 hour Labor day Telethon. His work helped raise 2 billion dollars to combat this debilitating, sometimes fatal disease. The multi-talented Jerry Lewis has a net worth of 50 million, well earned dollars.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have basically “made their bones” in the public sector, off the taxpayer dime. He was elected governor of Arkansas and then President of the United States. She, latching onto his slippery, slimy coattails wound up a Senator from New York, an unsuccessful presidential candidate, and awful Secretary of State. By Hillary’s own admission, she and Bill left the White House “dead broke” in 2000. In 2001 they began the “Clinton Foundation”, subsequently changed to the “Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation”. It’s grand, if purposely obtuse, stated mission is to “strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence.” It has raised $2 billion from a variety of increasingly questionable sources. Since its startup, Bill & Hill, certainly no Martin and Lewis, have amassed a net worth of between $100 to $200 million.

So how is it that two dead broke pols, ostensibly running a charity, can go from $0 to $150,000,000 in 14 years, while a gifted, a genuine renaissance man managing a charity for nearly half a century has accumulated $100 million less? What if the great entertainer had followed the “Clinton Way” of self promotional, “philanthropic outreach” for personal gain?

Let’s do some simple math. Bill and Hillary have averaged roughly a $11.5 million yearly boost in their net worth since the Clinton Foundation debuted. Nice non-work if you can get it. If Jerry Lewis had made that kind of dough, adjusted for inflation over 45 years, from his efforts on behalf of the MDA, he’d have netted over half a billion dollars….ten times what he’s worth now.

Why didn’t Lewis do that? Probably for several reasons. One, he has an extraordinary, private sector skill set that helps provide him with a terrific income. Two, because of those abilities he doesn’t need to exchange favors for murky money. Three, maybe Mr. Lewis figures $50 million is more than enough for him and his family. Finally, and likely most important, Jerry has a set of principles and morale compass that wouldn’t allow him to make hundreds of millions off the heartache of others.

Jerry Lewis traditionally closed his Muscular Dystrophy Telethon with a moving rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Bill Clinton, commenting on whether he would continue collecting big bucks speaking fees if Hill was elected president, closed an interview by saying, “Oh yeah! I gotta pay our bills”.

Lewis, the consummate performer followed the artist’s credo, of leaving the audience wanting more. So far, the Bill and Hill Show are leaving the folks wanting less, maybe a lot less.