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Which candidate gives the most to charity?

When presidential candidate Donald Trump announced yesterday that he would forgo tonight’s Republican primary debate on Fox News and hold a competing event to raise money for veterans, it wasn’t the first time he had leveraged the cause of veterans. Last fall, according to CNN, he threatened to skip two CNN debates unless revenues were donated to veterans’ groups.

Rivals Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina upped the ante today, offering to donate $1.5 million and $2 million, respectively, to veterans’ causes for the chance to debate Trump one-on-one.

Meanwhile, Cruz admitted to The Brody File yesterday that his level of charitable giving has not been in line with the biblical law of tithing.

“All of us are on a faith journey, and I will readily admit that I have not been as faithful in this aspect of my walk as I should have been,” he said.

Cruz was taken to task last week by another evangelical presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, who told Buzzfeed, “It’s hard to say God is first in your life if he’s last in your budget” when asked about the fact that Cruz gave less than 1 percent of his income to charity between 2005 and 2010. Huckabee attempted to call out President Barack Obama for the same thing in 2011 (Obama in fact gave 22 percent of his income to charity that year). Huckabee has not released his own tax returns, and it is not clear how much money he gives to charity.

Candidates’ charitable donations are clearly among the tools campaigns use to spin stories about themselves and their opponents. But do voters care?

“I doubt if anyone votes on this issue. It’s part of the blogger discussion of candidate character,” said Clyde Wilcox, professor of government at Georgetown University.

"It's hard to tell exactly what issue positions the candidates have, and their backgrounds are completely different. Voters want to pick someone who shares their values or who they think will look after their interests. At some level, one small part of that is, 'Is this someone who is generous?'"

"If someone is very generous with their money in supporting charities, it's one part of the way we evaluate their character," Wilcox said. “I doubt if one tenth of one percent of voters know what candidates give, and they probably don’t care much.”

Religious voters might care slightly more about how much candidates give to charity because giving to charity is part of most religions, Wilcox said. It may also matter more if a candidate is wealthy.

"When somebody is really, really rich, as some of these candidates are, then we would say, 'Are you not sharing some of this?'" he said.

So how much do each of the candidates give to charity?

Among those who have made their recent tax returns public, Republican Carly Fiorina and Democrat Hillary Clinton — the two women in the race — are the only candidates who pass the tithing test (10 percent of their income), with Fiorina donating 13 percent in 2013 and Clinton giving 11 percent in 2014. Republicans Jeb Bush and Chris Christie each gave roughly 3 percent in 2014. (View a one-page table comparing all the candidates on income, tax rate and giving rate here.)

Other candidates, including Trump and Cruz, have either not released their tax returns or have released only partial returns that do not include itemized deductions, including gifts to charity.

Cruz’s tax returns for 2005-2010, released during a run for state office, were at one time posted on his campaign website but have since been removed. A previous article in the Houston Chronicle reported that in 2010, Cruz donated $19,137 of his more than $2 million salary, for a giving rate of less than 1 percent.

Trump promised NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would release his tax returns in the near future. They are unlikely to show a high level of charitable giving, according to analyses of other financial records and government filings by the Associated Press.

Trump claims to have donated $102 million in cash and land over the past five years, but he has provided little documentation and has not donated to his own Donald J. Trump foundation since 2008, leaving it to give grants based on the donations of others, the AP reported. Most of the $102 million represents land transactions in which Trump stands to benefit by getting a tax deduction in exchange for using the land in a particular way.

Partial tax returns released by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders did not include his donations to charity. His campaign told the Washington Post that he gave $10,217 to charity in 2014, or about 5 percent of his income.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, called on this year’s candidates to do as he did four years ago and make their returns public. “4 years ago today, I released my taxes; became issue (sic). 2016 candidates should release taxes before first contests,” he tweeted on Jan. 24.

Romney’s 2011 tax returns revealed that he gave 29 percent of his income to charity, compared to Obama’s 22 percent that same year. In raw figures, Romney gave more than $4 million to charity that year while Obama gave about $172,000.

Details on each 2016 candidate’s tax rate and giving rate are below. View a one-page table comparing all the candidates here.

DEMOCRATS:

Hillary Clinton

Tax returns for year: 2014

Adjusted gross income: $27,946,490

Total federal tax: $9,981,350

Tax rate: 35.7%

Gifts to charity: $3,022,700

Giving rate: 10.8%

Martin O’Malley

Tax returns for year: 2014

Adjusted gross income: $330,000

Total federal tax: $76,100

Tax rate: 23.1%

Gifts to charity: unknown

Giving rate: unknown

Bernie Sanders

Tax returns for year: 2014

Adjusted gross income: $205,271

Total federal tax: $27,653

Tax rate: 13.5%

Gifts to charity: $10,217

Giving rate: 5%

REPUBLICANS:

Jeb Bush

Tax returns for year: 2014

Adjusted gross income: $8,279,302

Total federal tax: $3,293,026

Tax rate: 39.8%

Gifts to charity: $308,734

Giving rate: 3.7%

Chris Christie

Tax returns for year: 2014

Adjusted gross income: $970,161

Total federal tax: $283,535

Tax rate: 29.2%

Gifts to charity: $27,609

Giving rate: 2.9%

Carly Fiorina

Tax returns for year: 2013

Adjusted gross income: $1,953,929

Total federal tax: $429,005

Tax rate: 22.0%

Gifts to charity: $261,426

Giving rate: 13.4%

Ted Cruz

Tax returns for year: 2010

Adjusted gross income: $2,040,840

Total federal tax: $674,703

Tax rate: 33.1%

Gifts to charity: $19,137

Giving rate: 0.9%

Rick Santorum

Tax returns for year: 2010

Adjusted gross income: $923,411

Total federal tax: $263,442

Tax rate: 28.5%

Gifts to charity: $16,289

Giving rate: 1.8%

Marco Rubio

Tax returns for year: 2009

Adjusted gross income: $317,531

Total federal tax: $60,611

Tax rate: 19.1%

Gifts to charity: unknown

Giving rate: unknown

Donald Trump

Tax returns not released

Ben Carson

Tax returns not released

John Kasich

Tax returns not released

Jim Gilmore

Tax returns not released

Mike Huckabee

Tax returns not released

Rand Paul

Tax returns not released

PAST CANDIDATES:

Mitt Romney

Tax returns for year: 2011

Adjusted gross income: $13,696,951

Total federal tax: $1,935,708

Tax rate: 14.1%

Gifts to charity: $4,020,772

Giving rate: 29.4%

Barack Obama

Tax returns for year: 2011

Adjusted gross income: $789,674

Total federal tax: $162,074

Tax rate: 20.5%

Gifts to charity: $172,130

Giving rate: 21.8%

Email: apond@deseretnews.com

Twitter: allisonpond