Recession Watch

Extreme Philanthropy Sags

Each year, Slate tracks the top 60 philanthropic donors in an effort to create competition among the superwealthy. Although the top donations rose to $15.78 billion in 2008 from $7.79 billion in 2007, the list actually reflects the fact that in the economic crisis, the wealthiest Americans are giving cautiously. Thirteen of the 61 contributions come from bequests, accounting for $11.64 billion of the total, leaving a mere $4.14 billion donated from the living rich. The top two gifts, Leona Helmsley's $5.2 billion gift for the care and treatment of dogs and James LeVoy Sorenson's $4.5 billion to the arts and abused children, are bequests that exemplify another widespread trend this year: giving to eponymous foundations.