Part 1 – Santorum’s Poor Record of Charitable Giving:
You’d think a conservative candidate for president would be fairly generous with their charitable giving. The conservative approach to helping the poor, after all, is to rely on private charities so we can keep the size of government small and not create welfare dependency. So why is it that Rick Santorum gave so little of his income to charity over the last couple years?
The statistics are startling: in 2008 Santorum donated just under $22,000 to charity, but purchased an Audi A6 for $42,950. Looking back further, CNN reported:
Santorum gave $81,500 to charity over the past four years, or 2.2% of the more than $3.6 million in total income he earned since leaving the Senate, the documents showed.
From 2007 to 2009, Santorum’s rate of charitable giving fluctuated between 2.03% and 2.67% of his earnings.
In 2010, the rate dropped to 1.76% of his $923,411 in income. That same year, President Obama gave 14.2% of his income to charity, while Mitt Romney donated 13.8% and Newt Gingrich gave 2.6%.
Let’s be clear: while it’s true Senator Santorum has more children than the average person, he’s also made nearly a million dollars a year for four years, and gave just over 2% to charity during this period (well short of the 1/10th associated with a traditional tithe). CNN notes as well that people of Senator Santorum’s wealth usually give approximately 3.4% of their income to charity, putting Santorum at approximately 50% below the average.
“His donation level is on the low side,” said Ken Berger, the president and CEO of Charity Navigator, who also noted that research suggests religious individuals donate more than the non-religious.
“When you put it in the context of people of faith, then it really is on the low side,” Berger said.
What’s worse is that Santorum’s actions differ substantially from what he advocates publicly:
The relatively low contribution level is also a bit puzzling for a senator who championed non-profits and charitable organizations while in office.
“We should be proactive in finding ways to more fully engage the American public in charitable giving,” Santorum said in a 2005 statement on the CARE Act, a bill he sponsored that sought to promote the interests of charities and provide incentives for Americans to donate.
Part 2 – Rick Santorum’s Poorly Managed Charity:
In addition, Rick Santorum founded a charity a number of years ago. See my post here regarding that charity’s very low percentage of contributions that actually made it to the poor.
CNN states on this topic:
Santorum has also come under fire for the giving practices of a charity called Operation Good Neighbor that he started more than a decade ago.
In his “founder’s letter,” Santorum wrote that one of the charity’s goals was to help “break the cycle of poverty that sours the lives of too many men, women and children in our nation.”
The group collected at least $2.3 million in contributions between 2001 and its termination in 2007, but only spent around 45% of total revenue on beneficiaries, according to IRS documents.
The rest went to fundraising, office space and personnel costs. In essence, the charity was spending more on itself than the people it was designed to help.
The charity, Berger said, lagged far below industry standards.
See this report in the American Prospector for more information about this charity. So who benefited most from this charity’s operations? Its staff. At whose expense? Donors who thought they were helping the poor. And who constituted the charity’s staff? Among others, Robert Bickhart, the charity’s Executive Director, who also happened to serve as Santorum’s campaign finance director, who received payments in the form of unspecified amounts of rent and some salary.
The Bigger Picture Coming into Focus
The thing that worries me most about this track record is the emerging picture that Rick Santorum is really all about number one. For starters, he has the habit of positioning himself and his friends to benefit from his position in government. In my prior article I discuss his PAC, which also had a very poor record of giving for its stated purpose (like the charity, well below typical amounts). A majority of the funds raised went to administrative expenses, which, I’d imagine, is likely expenses of Rick Santorum or his staff (many of the expenses were to fast food restaurants). If that’s true, essentially the charity and the PAC look like personal expense accounts for those involved. And then there’s the story of his seeking reimbursement from his state’s taxpayers for his kids’ education while living in another state. And there are other stories of Rick Santorum or his friends receiving seemingly special benefits, like his home refinance by a financial institution whose usual business is not mortgages but managing portfolios of wealthy clients, though the Santorums did not appear to meet the objective income criteria to be customers and did not have an investment portfolio.
Taken together, these start to paint a picture of a man reaping considerable personal rewards from time spent in the government, which frankly disturbs me. I don’t expect any of this is illegal, but it certainly seems improper to me. If this were offset by a track record of charitable giving, I could come to a different conclusion, but it really seems that Rick Santorum is feasting at the trough of government and all its excesses. It looks to me like he’s working the system to his best benefit, while not living what he preaches and not sharing with others. When I consider the millions of income he made after losing his re-election bid and having no significant other prior work experience, I see a man who’s benefiting greatly from his time in DC, but who is really not as generous as he expects others to be. He doesn’t seem to be asking what he can do for our country, but what the country can do for him. This bothers me greatly and is not the sort of inspiration I’d look for in my candidate for president.
Meanwhile Mitt Romney donates enough of his own income to eclipse the traditional 10% tithe, paying in 2010 seven times on a percentage basis that which Santorum paid (and, yes, he made more money, but he still paid over seven times on a percentage basis what co-millionaire Senator Santorum paid). Mitt donates all proceeds from his book to charity, took effectively no salary to run the Olympics (donating the $1.4 million he was to be paid to charity). While Santorum looks to me to be feeding at the government trough, Romney is giving away money at seven times Santorum’s rate. And they say Mitt is out of touch and doesn’t care for the poor. Hogwash.
As a result, to me in there’s no real comparison. Mitt walks the walk; Santorum is just talk.
For another excellent article on this topic, see my colleague Vic Lundquist’s post of a few days ago.
Please Check Out These Other “Threads” in the #UnravelTheSweater Series:
- Series Intro: Operation #UnravelTheSweater
- Rick Santorum’s Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Hypocrisy
- Rick Santorum – #1 Recipient of Lobby Money
- Santorum: Separation of Church and State “Makes Me Want to Throw Up”
- Colleague Support for Rick Santorum? Crickets…
- Rick Santorum’s Effusive Promotion of Mitt in 2008
- Rick Santorum’s Serious Electability Issues
- Romney SuperPAC Hits Santorum on Spending – Fact Check Verified
- Santorum’s Courage Betrayed by Willingness to Sacrifice Core Principles
- Rick Santorum vs. Protestant Christians
- Santorum’s Poor Record of Charitable Giving
- Rick Santorum – Unprepared and Unqualified
- Rick Santorum – Lots of Rhetoric… Little Action
- Fleshing Out the Truth About Rick Santorum
- Big Government Rick Santorum is NOT the One