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Politics, life, and other things that matter

Such a soft touch, that Romney

Posted by Charles II on September 25, 2012

Hello, Crooks and Liars readers, and thanks for the shout-out, Swim Girl!
When it was reported that Mitt Romney had given 29% of AGI to charity in 2011, I was intrigued, and went to look at the tax returns to see what I had been missing about the philanthropic side of this man.

It seems this represents another flip flop. Ben Adler, The Nation:

While running for president Romney seems to have suddenly found his inner philanthropist. As George Zornick reports (quoting Romney’s trustee, Brad Malt), “Over the entire 20-year period period [of 1990-2009, the Romneys gave to charity an average of 13.45 percent of their adjusted gross income.” To be a Mormon in good standing one must donate 10 percent of one’s gross income to the Mormon church. If Romney did so, that means he gave only 3.45 percent of his vast fortune to all other charities.

So, there’s a 16 percentage point jump from his typical giving to this year, when his taxes are up for scrutiny.

Now, the Obamas’ giving has also increased substantially. But they were not established as wealthy until 2009, when book royalties (pre-tax) hit $5.7M, and they are far less wealthy than the Romneys.

Then there’s the question of what the Romneys give to. They give, as mentioned. 10% to the Mormon Church. Some of the activities of the Church, like running anti-gay initiatives, are a lot less charitable than the Church would like to admit. Also, there’s not much question but that the Church ties humanitarian aid much more closely to evangelization than, say Church World Service, a mainline Protestant service, or Catholic Charities. To quote the director of LDS Humanitarian Services, Gary Flake:

The humanitarian effort of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is part of the whole effort of expansion. It is a way of helping the needy of the world and, at the same time, increasing awareness of the Church.[he later states that the purpose is “simply for the good it does,” but as framed, it’s clear that this is secondary to the goal of evangelism]

The Catholic Church and mainline Protestant churches see humanitarian aid as an end in itself. It is not expected to aid in expanding the church.

Aside from the Mormon Church, Romney’s main recipient has been The Tyler Foundation. No, not the one that helps “children are undergoing treatment for epilepsy at Children’s Hospital Boston and UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center” The one concocted by Romney as a vehicle to deliver contributions to such philanthropic enterprises as the George W. Bush Library. Yes, some of the money went to traditional charities, like the United Way. But as Josh Harkinson of MoJo put it:

In 2006, for instance, Romney’s foundation gave $10,000 to the anti-gay Massachusetts Family Institute, which believes that sexual orientation is a choice that can be cured by what critics call “pray away the gay” programs. In 2009, it gave $25,000 to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a year after its chairman, Seamus Hasson, compared marriage-equality activists to Al Qaeda.

Such “charity” is a disgrace to the system of tithing and an example of why the tax code is hopelessly screwed up. When God’s accountant sifts through the Romney’s tax returns, I suspect she’ll find that Romney’s philanthropy amounts to 1% to feed, clothe, or shelter non-Mormons and the rest was concealed political donations or to shore up his standing among his political base.

6 Responses to “Such a soft touch, that Romney”

  1. Reminds me of how Bill Gates’ defenders like to claim that he’s given far more to “charity” than did Steve Jobs — neglecting to mention that the “charities” are groups with an ideological bent, which in Gates’ case has focused on privatizing or chartering public schools and destroying teachers’ unions.

    • Charles II said

      To be fair, lefties often give to ideological charities. For example, one can give to Democracy Now or FAIR or The Nation Foundation to counteract right-wing media, to CCR or the ACLU or the National Lawyers Guild to oppose right-wing depredations against the Constitution, and so on. Mitt Romney gave to the GW Bush Library. Lefties presumably gave to the Clinton Library.

      But so much right-wing charity is barely-concealed political work, and so much of it is devoted to depriving people of rights that it deserves to be ridiculed.

      And terminated.

      • Palli said

        Right-wing “charitalble” donations are really just Republican money laundering.

      • Charles II said

        Yeah, you hit it, Palli.

        I’ve gamed the tax code, taking a deduction for something from which I personally benefited and even hoped to make money eventually. But it was also genuinely something from which all taxpayers would benefit. It wasn’t a sham.

        By contrast, when a wealthy conservative gives $1M to fund anti-gay initiatives, that amounts to forcing taxpayers to subsidize hate to the tune of many tens of thousands of dollars. It’s perverse.

      • MEC said

        Charles, it’s not just that they make tax-deductible donations to nonprofit organizations that have political rather than charitable goals. Remember the “charities” founded by Republican politicians that provide high-paying jobs for relatives, cronies, and clients, and give lobbyists a way to curry favor through making donations, but don’t actually do any charity work.

        And then there’s money laundering in the form of diverting charitable donations into campaign coffers.

      • Charles II said

        MEC says, “And then there’s money laundering in the form of diverting charitable donations into campaign coffers.”

        Ah, yes, the scam that Newt pioneered with the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Fund.

        Why all these people aren’t in jail is beyond me. I get tired of thinking, “God’ll get ’em.”

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