[caption id=”attachment_4124” align=”alignright” width=”300”] LDS Temple in Washington, DC. Photo by Richard Royce.[/caption] When I still called myself Christian and went to church, I had a pastor who tried to sell us all on the idea of a ten percent tithe. This was to support the good work the church did, but of course that good work included maintaining the church grounds, upgrading sound systems, buying the coffee served before Sunday school, etc.
In other words, keeping the congregation’s clubhouse nice.
I think about that when I think about the charitable contributions of the rich; sometimes donations are just a way of keeping the things around you nice.
Which brings us to Mitt Romney.
In 2010, the Romney’s declared just under $3 million in charitable contributions half as cash and half as stock. The cash half went to Mitt’s church, the Church of Latter-Day Saints.
The stock half went to the Tyler Charitable Foundation, Mitt and Ann Romney’s mechanism for disbursing their charitable donations. Writing for Mother Jones, Josh Harkinson lists the recipients of contributions from the Tyler Charitable Foundation in 2010, or you can look at those figures yourself. The three largest gifts were to the LDS ($145k), the George W. Bush library ($100k), and the Center for Treatment of Pediatric MS ($75k).
One thing I think is interesting is that the Foundation accepted $1.45 million in stock from the Romney’s in 2010, but disbursed only $647,500. That left the foundation with $9.5 million dollars in assets at the end of the year.
So while the Romneys donate heavily to their own foundation, it seems like a large amount of that money is just parked there. Perhaps it is parked there so the Foundation can continue to operate long after Mitt and Ann are gone – that’s certainly a common use of Foundations.
But what that means is that, collectively, the Romney family donated just a hair over $500k to non-church institutions; and 20% of that went to a presidential library.
Does Mitt Romney deserve credit for his charitable donations? Certainly. But probably not $3 million worth.