How Generous is the Charitable Giving of Presidential Candidates?

While I applaud anyone who donates money and/or time to charities, some deserve more applause than others do. Since the presidential campaign season has begun, and with federal tax returns due earlier this week, The Washington Post has reviewed the charitable giving of the 2020 presidential candidates who have released their federal tax returns so far.

Here is what we know from the most recently released tax returns (with candidates and their spouses ranked from least to most generous as a percentage of Adjusted Gross Income):

Beto O’Rourke donated $1,166, 0.3 percent of AGI.

Kamala Harris donated $27,259, 1.4 percent of AGI.

Kirsten Gillibrand donated $3,750, 1.75 percent of AGI.

Amy Klobuchar donated $6,602, 1.85 percent of AGI.

Bernie Sanders donated $18,950, 3.4 percent of AGI.

Jay Inslee donated $8,295, 4.0 percent of AGI.

Elizabeth Warren donated $50,128, 5.5 percent of AGI.

For perspective, here is some information about past presidential candidates:

Barack Obama gave 21.8 percent of AGI in 2011 while running for re-election as President.

Mitt Romney gave 29.4 percent of AGI in 2011 while running for President.

Joe Biden gave 1.8 percent of AGI in 2015 (the most recent year available) while Vice President.

George W. Bush gave 19.2 percent of AGI in 2000, the year he was first elected President.

Bill Clinton gave 6.7 percent of AGI in 1992, the year he was first elected President.

As I write this post, none of the other presidential candidates has released their recent tax returns. I must note that the law does not require presidential candidates or presidents to disclose their tax returns.

While President Donald Trump has refused to release his personal tax returns, it has been widely reported that he is donating his $400,000 annual presidential salary. Sadly, many of Trump’s other charitable giving claims have been debunked, and the Trump Foundation was shut down as part of an agreement with New York authorities.

Once they release their tax returns, it will be interesting to see how much the other presidential candidates have donated to nonprofit organizations.

While the presidential primary elections are a year away, I want to give you a chance to anonymously vote today about how much a candidate’s philanthropy is likely to influence your support:

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

UPDATE (May 16, 2019): Since this post was written, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a 2020 presidential candidate, released 10 years of tax returns. Last year, Booker made $152,639 (his US Senate salary), paid $22,781 in federal taxes, and donated $24,000 to charity. His charitable-donation amount is about 15 percent of his 2018 income, making him the Democratic candidate who gave the largest percentage of their salary to charity, out of those who have released tax returns.

10 Responses to “How Generous is the Charitable Giving of Presidential Candidates?”

  1. Love the poll. Do more polls!

  2. It blows my mind that I gave more in both percentage & actual dollars than Beto!

    • Danielle, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I was also definitely surprised by Beto’s level of giving. Frankly, given the political rhetoric from the candidates, I was surprised by the level of giving (as a percentage of AGI) of all of the candidates.

  3. Beto has also said he is giving himself to the nation. So smug. I live in Texas and I hope he continues to run federally and lose repeatedly. If he and the Castro brothers gave up on Texas it would be a great thing.

    • Brian, thank you for sharing your thoughts. What I find particularly interesting about the data is the disconnect between candidate rhetoric and philanthropic actions. In Beto’s case, it’s especially glaring.

  4. We should take advantage of this especially during the election. Presidential candidates will really impress people and influence them. Interesting post by the way. Great job!


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