Beto O'Rourke confronted over paltry charitable donations, says his public service is the "real contribution"

Beto O'Rourke confronted over paltry charitable donations, says his public service is the "real contribution"
Democratic presidential candidate former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke (Source : Getty Images)

One of the most surprising details that emerged after Beto O'Rourke released his tax returns this week was how little he and his wife had given to charity - just $1,166 in 2017, barely 0.3% of their total income for the year.

During a campaign stop in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Tuesday, O'Rourke was confronted by a voter about his paltry philanthropy. In response, the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful said his public service is the "real contribution" to society, CNN reports.

U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) addresses a campaign rally at the Pan American Neighborhood Park November 04, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Getty)


"I've served in public office since 2005, I do my best to contribute to the success of my community, of my state, and now of my country," O'Rourke said. "There are ways that I do this that are immeasurable and there are ways that I do this that are measurable. There are charities that we donate to that we've recorded and itemized, others that we've donated to that we have not."


He continued, "But I'll tell you I'm doing everything I can right now, spending this time with you, not with our kiddos, not back home in El Paso, because I want to sacrifice everything to make sure that meet this moment of truth with everything that we've got."

The following day in northern Virginia, O'Rourke iterated the same message - this time citing his wife and daughter's social work at a migrant shelter. "Amy and Molly are serving food tonight at an Annunciation House shelter," he said. "That's where I spent my Christmas Eve in El Paso," adding, "I try to contribute and serve in every way that I can."

For the year 2017, the O'Rourkes reported an adjusted gross income of $366,455 and gave only $1,166 to charity. The years prior to that, the couple gave even less; with $857 in 2016 and $867 in 2015.

Only one year out of the ten years of tax returns released by the family shows them giving an amount to charity that crossed $2,000. This was in 2013, when the O'Rourkes gave nearly 4.3% ($12,900) of their adjusted gross income, which stood at $301,092. For the rest of the years, their charitable giving hadn't crossed even 1% of their income.


On average, Americans donate about 2% of their income to charitable organizations. While Republicans donate more in raw dollars, per studies, the poor reportedly donate a larger percentage of their income.

According to the IRS, the average amount spent in charity reported for the income bracket of an adjusted gross income of over $250,000 - which O'Rourke's income falls under - is $22,484.

The Texan businessman also said in his remarks that he hasn't listed all of his donations on his tax returns. "For us, it wasn't important to itemize or to take the deductions we wanted to make contributions to causes and charities and to be people that we believed in that we thought could be helpful," O'Rourke said Wednesday.

"You know, again, never thought I'd be publishing 10 years of my tax returns, which we just did two days ago, but that's by and large why."


Meanwhile, several Democratic counterparts of O'Rourke have been way more altruistic considering their tax returns.


In the past two years, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane gave about 3% of their income to charity. In 2018, the pair donated $18,950 on an adjusted gross income of $561,293, while in 2017 they gave $36,300 to charity after raking in $1,131,925.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her husband Bruce Mann donated $50,128 in 2018, amounting to 6% of an adjusted gross income of $846,394.

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