The guy lives in a 4,700-square-foot home, according to the AP, and as of 2015 had a personal net worth of $9 million. His father-in-law is a bona fide real-estate tycoon who’s worth around $500 million by Forbes’s estimate. According to his newly released tax returns, he and his wife had income in 2017 of $370,412. Asked recently whether he’d support a wealth tax, O’Rourke answered in the affirmative: “I think fundamental to this experiment of America and democracy is ensuring we don’t have princes and princesses, kings and queens, a concentration of wealth and power and privilege, and that’s exactly what we have in this country right now.”
Total amount donated to charity in 2017: $1,166. Or 0.3 percent.
If you’re wondering whether that was an off-year for him in charitable giving, let Andrew Stiles set you straight:
O’Rourke, who released ten years worth of tax returns, has done well for himself over the years, but has not made a habit of donating a significant portion of his income to charity. Despite reporting an average annual income of $340,613 between 2008 and 2017, the candidate donated an average of just $2,430 to charity per year during that time, or 0.7 percent.
That’s considerably less than the average donation by Americans in lower income brackets. According to IRS data from 2016, Americans earning between $200,000 and $250,000 reported an average of $5,472 in charitable contributions, or about 2 percent of total income. It’s also less than half of what Joe Biden reported on his 2011 tax return (1.5 percent of total income in charitable donations), which resulted in the former veep being ridiculed as a cheapskate.
Per Stiles, in 2015 O’Rourke donated just $867 to charity, a rate of just 0.2 percent. How does he stack up with other Democratic candidates? Not well:
The average rate for Americans making between $75,000 and $2 million annually who itemize deductions is around 3-4 percent, notes Weissmann. WaPo reminds us that the Obamas did way better than that in 2011, when they donated roughly 22 percent of their $790,000 in income, and the Romneys did waaaaaaaaay better in 2012, giving $4 million of the $13.7 million they earned that year to charity for a rate of 29.7 percent. (The Romneys didn’t take the charitable deduction either.) It’s easier for the mega-rich to be mega-generous than it is for the merely well-to-do, of course.
But 0.3 percent?
Beto’s almost guaranteed to be the stingiest of the Democrats’ crop of class warriors when it comes to voluntary redistribution of wealth to the hoi polloi. But never count out Joe Biden, who became a legend in the annals of cheaping out on charity when he was added to the ticket in 2008:
Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife gave an average of $369 a year to charity during the past decade, his tax records show…
The Bidens reported giving $995 in charitable donations last year — about 0.3% of their income and the highest amount in the past decade. The low was $120 in 1999, about 0.1% of yearly income.
Over the decade, the Bidens reported a total of $3,690 in charitable donations, or 0.2% of their income.
At last check, though, even the Bidens are outdoing the O’Rourkes. WaPo cites the latest available tax return, from 2015, and finds donations of $6,900 for a rate of 1.8 percent. If nothing else good comes from the attention given to Trump’s tax returns, at least the pressure on politicians to disclose their own encourages those with presidential ambitions to kick in more to charity knowing that they’ll be goofed on eventually like Beto if they don’t.
Speaking of which, how much did Trump give to charity last year? He donates his salary as president to various causes, sometimes to government agencies, sometimes to science. Without his returns, though, there’s no way to know what percentage that $400,000 is of his total annual income. He still receives royalties and income from his properties, after all — not even from a “blind trust” either but from a trust managed by his sons, with whom he speaks regularly. It’s also possible that he’s donating to charity privately in addition to giving away his annual paycheck, but, uh, not likely. Regardless, this isn’t a subject he’ll want to broach next year, even if O’Rourke ends up as his opponent.