Beto O'Rourke Donated Just 0.7% of His Income to Charity Since 2008

April 16, 2019

When it comes to raising money, former congressman and failed Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke is a force to be reckoned with. However, when it comes to charitable giving, O'Rourke's personal contributions are far from generous—typically less than 1 percent of his total income.

O'Rourke earned $366,455 in 2017, according to his tax returns, which he posted on his campaign website on Monday. That same year, he reported charitable donation of just $1,166, or 0.3 percent of his total income. That's even less than rival Democratic candidate Kirsten Gillibrand reported giving to charity on her 2018 tax return. Gillibrand, who earned $217,634 last year, donated just $3,750 to charity, or 1.7 percent of her total income.

O'Rourke, who released ten years worth of tax returns, has done well for himself over the years, but has not made a habit of donating a significant portion of his income to charity. Despite reporting an average annual income of $340,613 between 2008 and 2017, the candidate donated an average of just $2,430 to charity per year during that time, or 0.7 percent.

That's considerably less than the average donation by Americans in lower income brackets. According to IRS data from 2016, Americans earning between $200,000 and $250,000 reported an average of $5,472 in charitable contributions, or about 2 percent of total income. It's also less than half of what Joe Biden reported on his 2011 tax return (1.5 percent of total income in charitable donations), which resulted in the former veep being ridiculed as a cheapskate.

The most egregious disparity between reported income and charitable giving occurred in 2015, when O'Rourke earned $377,151 but donated just $867 to charity—just 0.2 percent of his total income. His most generous year—and the only time he came close to the national average of between 2 and 5 percent of total income—was 2013, when he reported charitable donations of $12,900 (4.3 percent) after earning $301,092.

Personal finances have been the source of considerable tension within the Democratic Party in recent days. Bernie Sanders, for example, was recently the subject of a ThinkProgress attack video after the socialist candidate revealed he was a millionaire. ThinkProgress is an affiliate of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank founded by former Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. CAP president Neera Tanden was ultimately forced to denounce the video after Sanders wrote a letter of complaint to CAP's board of directors.