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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: How charitable are they?

Wikipedia Commons / Gage Skidmore

In some ways, being president is a form charity. It can entail tremendous sacrifice and candidates (hopefully) seek the office to improve other people’s lives.

Presidents help to decide how money gets spent on programs like assistance to the poor and grants to artists. They can extend healthcare to more people and provide relief to refugees. They can also, more generally, steer a country toward compassion and kindness.

Through her or his influence, a president has the potential to be the most charitable person in a country.

Barack Obama, for instance, pulled a pretty charitable move when he gave his Nobel Peace Prize earnings ($1.4 million) to 10 charities. To find out how charitable a future president will be, looking at their past actions is a good barometer.

Both candidates vying for the US presidency — Donald Trump (70) and Hillary Clinton (68) — have had plenty of time to develop a penchant for giving.

So have they? Let’s take a look:

Donald Trump

Donald Trump has called himself an “ardent philanthropist,” but many critics have shown how this is exaggerated.

Trump claims to have given $102 million to charity from 2009-2014, but none of this money actually came from his own accounts. The Washington Post analyzed his reported charitable works and determined that the largest items were not even money donations, but, rather, agreements from his properties to not over-develop certain areas. This undeveloped land was marked at $63.8 million and described as charity. Another major source of his reported charity has been free rounds of golf or other benefits at his resorts and a large portion of these efforts have been tied to his business interests.

Trump has always branded himself a philanthropist but, again, these claims are not always borne out by evidence.

Between 1990 and 2009, Trump, who claims to currently have $10 billion (although reports contest this), donated $3.7 million to his eponymous foundation, which has delivered a total of $6.7 million in grants.

Last April, Trump did gave $1 million to a charity that helps the families of veterans after a pledge, but an analysis by The Washington Post found that earlier pledges have not been realized

Another New York billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, gave $235 million to charity in 2008 alone.

While Donald Trump loves to talk about how charitable he is, his actions don’t always match.

His tax returns could still reveal a mass of personal donations, substantiating his “ardent” philanthropy, but that has yet to happen.

When it comes to advocacy, Trump has really only become active since announcing his presidency. On the one hand, he advocates against helping immigrants, while on other hand he advocates for assisting the elderly and the working classes (even if his policies contradict this).

Hillary Clinton

As far as charity goes, Hillary Clinton is most known for The Clinton Foundation, which was established after Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Of the nearly $15 million the Clintons donated between 2008-2014, $14.8 million went to the foundation. That $15 million amount was 10.8 percent of their combined income during this period, a rate that is far higher than what Trump has made available.

Unlike other foundations that tend to deploy grants, the Clintons’ foundation is a public charity that employs thousands of people around the world and carries out its own operations.

The Clinton Foundation has a global mission and focuses on health, climate change, development, and gender equality. You can check out some of the foundation’s achievements here.

Similar to Trump, some skeptics doubt the foundation’s integrity.

Charity Navigator, an influential charity ranking group, cannot rank the foundation because it fails to meet certain criteria. While this non-ranking is neutral, it feeds skepticism that the foundation acts as a “slush fund.” That said, neither Bill or Hillary receive a salary from it.

Another criticism is that it receives large donations from foreign leaders who, it could be argued, were seeking political favor while Hillary was secretary of state.

This is a legitimate concern, especially when such donations come from leaders directly opposed to the foundation’s work.

When it comes to advocacy, though, Clinton has been a staunch supporter of women’s and children’s rights since her college days in the 1960s. She has also served many public roles including First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the US, Senator of New York and Secretary of State. 

The president is supposed to serve the people. It’s the most exalted position in a country and, theoretically, the one that calls for the most humility.

Having a robust background in charity should be a requirement.

One candidate in this election considers himself an “ardent philanthropist,” while the other can be better described as a staunch advocate.

Now it’s up to the US people to decide who to choose.