By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Barack Obama's successful quest for the White House powered the sales of his nonfiction books, making him millions even as he assumed the presidency, his tax returns show.
As a candidate in 2008, Obama earned about $2.6 million from the sale of his books, "The Audacity of Hope" and "Dreams From My Father," according to returns the White House released yesterday.
The book sales represented the vast majority of the first couple's income, although they also reported wages of about $200,000 and a small amount of investment income.
Together, Obama and his wife, Michelle, paid about $855,000 in federal taxes. They would have received a $26,000 refund, but asked that the amount be applied to their 2009 income taxes instead.
The returns, Obama's first released while president, show that he donated $172,050 to charities, including $25,000 to both CARE and the United Negro College Fund.
He did not donate to the Trinity United Church of Christ, the Chicago church where the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his controversial former pastor, had preached. During the campaign, Obama denounced Wright and quit the church that he had attended for years.
The tax returns confirm the success Obama has had as an author during the past two years, as his largely autobiographical books have remained high on bestseller lists. His earnings in 2008, in addition to the nearly $4.1 million he earned the year before, put him in the top tier of nonfiction writers in terms of income from book sales.
"The president sold a lot of books last year, no doubt, and paid a hefty amount in federal income tax," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a briefing yesterday.
The White House said the Obamas paid about $78,000 in taxes to their home state of Illinois.
Officials also released the federal and state tax returns for Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill. The couple earned far less than the Obamas, reporting income of about $270,000.
Biden paid about $47,000 in federal taxes and donated $1,885 to charity, the records show.
Most of Biden's income was from his Senate salary, although he reported about $9,500 from audio book royalties related to his 2007 autobiography, "Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics."
Biden's charitable donations included clothing to Goodwill, and in a statement the White House defended the size of his contributions.
"The charitable donations claimed by the Bidens on their tax returns are not the sum of their annual contributions to charity," the statement says. "They donate to their church, and they contribute to their favorite causes with their time, as well as their checkbooks."