Giving Pledge: How Three Houston Billionaires Should Help

One of the big stories this week is Bill Gates' and Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge, where the super-billionaires have promised to donate half their money to charity.

Even better, they've convinced 38 other rich guys to do to the same thing. It's a really great plan, and the ultimate goal is to get all 400 billionaires in the United States to donate enough money to reach $600 billion.

But so far, it looks like the only Houston billionaire who has signed up for the pledge is John Arnold, a hedge fund whiz who got his start as a trader for Enron.

So we figured we'd offer our suggestions to three other uber-wealthy Houstonians, and as you'll see, even if they don't want in on the Giving Pledge, they can still get in the giving spirit.

1. Bob McNair. Estimated Net Worth: $1.2 billion.

McNair founded the energy company Cogen Technologies, which he sold to Enron for cash and stock. He sold that stock for a big payday just before Enron collapsed. McNair is probably better known for bringing professional football back to the city in the form of the Houston Texans.

Where he should donate: The Time Travel Research Center, because even though McNair guessed right on the Enron deal, his choices with the Texans haven't worked out so great. With a time machine, however, McNair could pass on David Carr, and with a redo in 2006, maybe Houstonians could stop convincing themselves that Mario Williams was the right choice.

2. Thomas Friedkin. Estimated Net Worth: $1.6 billion.

Friedkin made his billions, in part, by founding and running Gulf States Toyota Distributors, one of only two private distributors of new Toyotas in the U.S. He also worked as a stunt pilot in Hollywood.

Where he should donate:The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Times are tight theses days, and we're sure every federal agency could use a little budget boost. This agency, however, should hold a special place in Friedkin's heart, because it allowed Toyota to keep selling cars for years despite consumer complaints about unintended acceleration.

That stopped this year after someone died in California, causing the NHTSA to devote much time and money to investigate Toyota. So maybe Friedkin could  give back a little.

3. Joe Jamail. Estimated Net Worth: $1.5 billion.

Jamail is considered one of the richest lawyers in the country. He collected a $335 million fee in one case alone, when he represented  Pennzoil in a winning lawsuit against Texaco.

Where he should donate: Jim Gibson's Motocross Training. A bizarre suggestion, we know, but we decided to follow the thinking of the City of Houston, which in 2008 named a skate park in his honor. He later told Forbes, "I don't know anything about skateboarding."

We're also a bit hesitant to say anything negative about a man who has made more than a billion dollars by suing people. So, Mr. Jamail, we're sure you've been generous enough.

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