Are Our Politicians As Charitable As They Claim?

The intersection of politics and philanthropy is, in a word, complicated.

The question of whether our politicians–or at least the big three (including Gary Johnson in this discussion) are charitable is not as complicated.

Charitability in itself is fairly easily measured when the right information is openly disclosed, but somewhat more difficult when scale is considered. Someone like you or me donating $10,000 to a charitable cause is substantially more “generous,” so to speak, than someone like Bill Gates doin the same. The impact is identical, but the effort and charitable nature of the person doing the giving may not be quite so level

Unpacking whether a candidate is charitable or not is, then, a bit more difficult than it may seem when the fact that humans have the capability to exaggerate, manipulate words (or organizations), or outright lie when it comes to how much money they’ve given and where it’s gone.

According to the Washington Post, which sourced its information from Bill and Hillary Clinton’s joint tax returns, the Clintons have donated just under 10 percent of their adjusted income to charities over the course of about 15 years, which comes out to about $23 million.

Donald Trump, in contrast, has yet to release his own tax returns, causing a good bit of controversy. The same Washington Post article states that Trump donated less than $4 million from his own pocket in that same timeframe. His campaign claims that Trump has donated significantly more than that, but has yet to put forward figures or proof to corroborate the claim. We also know that Trump has donated slightly less than  $4 million directly to his own foundation, the Trump Foundation.

Perhaps the easiest candidate to unpack is Gary Johnson, who gave a somewhat candidate and straightforward answer when asked about his own charitable donations in August. Johnson openly admitted that his charitable giving pales in comparison to both Clinton and Trump, as his wealth is considerably smaller than that of both main party candidates.

Johnson, however, addressed the matter differently. Instead of dodging, ducking or avoiding the question as a whole, the Libertarian nominee claimed that he helps people in other ways: by executing on his party platform when in office.



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