Gores' Charitable Giving Raises Some Eyebrows
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 15) -- In a 34-page 1997 federal tax return, Vice President Al Gore and wife Tipper reported giving $353 to charity, an amount much lower than donations the family has made in previous tax cycles.
That figure is less than one-tenth the typical contribution amount for someone with the Gores' adjusted gross income of $197,729. That fact has caused some bewilderment in philanthropic circles because of the vice president's "good guy" image as an advocate for public service and social causes, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
"I would assume that he would want to do something to demonstrate that he was being socially responsible through his giving ... " Stacy Palmer, managing editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, told the Times.
The vice president's office responded by urging that the Gores be judged by their history of giving, not just the dollar figure from one year's tax return. Aides also said some donations could not be claimed on the form, including church contributions and Mrs. Gore's donations of food and clothing to the homeless.
"Contributing financially to charitable organizations is certainly noble and should be encouraged and is something that the Gores have done when the resources were there," said Chris Lehane, a spokesman for the vice president. "However, to truly judge a person's commitment to helping others, you need to consider what they have done with their lives and how they have spent their time -- and by that standard the Gores are extraordinarily committed."
The giving pattern of the Gores has been erratic over the years. Last year they gave $35,530, most of which came from the proceeds of Mrs. Gore's book, "Picture This."
In 1992, aided by the royalties of Gore's book, "Earth In The Balance," the couple donated $52,558. Most of that -- $50,000 -- went to the University of Tennessee to endow a chair in memory of Gore's late sister.
During the years in between the Gores did not itemize their tax returns, and therefore no charitable donation statistics are available for that period.
But this year's $353 ranks very low by national standards. The Times reported that a survey by the pro-philanthropy Independent Sector shows the average American household gave $696 to charity in 1996.
IRS figures rank the Gores' 1997 level far below the average for households in their income bracket. Among households reporting income of $100,000 to $200,000 in 1995, the last year for which information is available, charitable contributions averaged $3,377.
But experts point out that a single household's donations vary greatly from year to year. And Gore's defenders also argue that despite the vice president's salary, he has two daughters enrolled at Harvard University and a son in a private secondary school.