FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- Facing questions about his relatively meager charitable giving, Democratic presidential candidate Beto ORourke said Wednesday that he and his family had donated more than reported on past tax returns because they werent interested in taking deductions.
Speaking to reporters after addressing hundreds at a crowded Jamaican restaurant in Fredericksburg, about 50 miles south of Washington, ORourke said, Were trying to go back to some of these organizations to see if they can share with us, over the last 10 years, how much we have donated.
Weve made donations to so many organizations in small amounts, in the hundreds of dollars, in larger amounts, in the thousands of dollars. This is beyond whats itemized and reflected in our taxes, the former Texas congressman said, adding his family just didnt report it because it wasnt important for us to take the deduction. Never thought it would be an issue because I didnt expect to release my taxes cause I never thought that Id be running for president.
Charitable donations can usually be deducted from overall taxable income, meaning the ORourkes had financial incentives to fully report their giving. ORourke implied that the family didnt need the tax reductions, though, and his personal finances suggest thats the case. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, ORourke, who left Congress in January, had a net worth of nearly 9 million in 2015 — ranking him near the top 50 in wealthiest House members.
On Monday, ORourke through 2017, showing that he and his wife, Amy, had donated about 0.7 of their income overall to charity. That included just 1,166 donated on a total adjusted income of 370,412 in 2017 — or about 0.3. An Associated Press analysis of the tax returns released by seven Democratic presidential hopefuls— including Sens. , and — shows that ORourkes charitable donations were the lowest.
ORourkes giving, nonetheless, included an increase to 12,900 in 2013, when he donated his congressional salary during the weeks of a partial government shutdown to a veterans charity — following the lead of many lawmakers from both parties. Asked Wednesday if he made donations to similar groups when the government wasnt shuttered, ORourke said that he had, but he wasnt sure how much money that entailed.
He also noted that he, his wife and three children have donated their time to charitable organizations, including to a shelter in Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from ORourkes native El Paso, Texas, which takes in Central American immigrants seeking asylum in the United States. He said that last Christmas Eve, the family helped mobilize volunteers to aid a large group of immigrants whom U.S. immigration officials released at the El Paso bus station.
In addition to the dollar amount, our time, he said of charitable giving. Weve donated time on the boards of nonprofits and certainly in public service and public life.
Reporters arent the only ones asking about the issue.
When an attendee of ORourkes town hall Tuesday in Charlottesville, Virginia, asked about his familys small amount of charitable giving, the candidate suggested that running for president could count as donating his time.
Im doing everything I can right now, spending time with you, not our kiddos, not back in El Paso, he said, because I want to sacrifice everything to make sure that we meet this moment of truth with everything that Ive got.
Associated Press writer Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa, contributed to this report.