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Right Turn
Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 02/16/2012

Santorum is wealthy, but stingy with charitable giving

Rick Santorum has released his tax returns for the years 2007-2010. Several items stand out.

First, he did very well for himself after leaving the Senate, making between $659,000 in 2007 to up $1.1 million in 2009. He did a lot of “consulting.” But we don’t know for whom and what he did to earn that money. Even Newt Gingrich coughed up a couple of Freddie Mac contracts. Shouldn’t we get to see whether Santorum was playing the same game — that is, making money on behalf of causes and clients that are at odds with his conservative ideology? Needless to say, it does confirm that he, like Gingrich, has derived his income directly or indirectly from government for more than 20 years. Aside from a four-year stint as a lawyer his expertise has been politics.

Second, he’s wealthy. That’s not only fine, but great. The grandson of poor immigrants, he is living the American dream. The fact that he is not blue collar and is not even middle class shouldn’t damage his ability to relate to such voters. It should, however, curb his snarkiness about Mitt Romney’s wealth. Neither one of them is hurting.

And finally, in those four years he gave a shockingly tiny amount to charity. In no year was charitable giving more than 3 percent of his income, and he dipped below 2 percent in one year.

He apparently believes in church doctrine about contraception but not about tithing. Compared to the American people as a whole ( who give about 2 percent on average), his level of giving is not unusual. But for people in his income bracket, he’s frankly cheap when it comes to charity. Last October the New York Times reported that “the wealthiest Americans — those making over $500,000 annually, which is less than 1 percent of all tax filers — gave away 3.4 percent of their income in 2008. That is significantly higher than Americans at lower income levels.” But not the Santorums. Recall that in the years for which the Romneys released their tax returns or estimates they gave away about 16 percent of their income.

I focus on the charitable giving because so much of Santorum’s career and a good deal of his writing focus on faith-based charities. So why did he personally give so little to the groups he lauds?

For someone who lectures his fellow citizens about parenting and contraception, he deserves to be scrutinized for what appears to be a glaring inconsistency in his own behavior. He talks the talk, but does he walk the walk? These tax returns suggest not.

By  |  09:00 AM ET, 02/16/2012

 
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