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2000 Presidential Candidates' Positions on Charity


And they're off! The 2000 presidential race is officially underway. Both parties' frontrunners have made charity part of their platforms, and other presidential hopefuls have also addressed the issue.

On May 24, 1999, Democratic candidate Al Gore proposed that the federal government forge a New Partnership with local nonprofit organizations, particularly those founded on religious or moral principles, to combat social problems. On July 22 Republican contender George W. Bush outlined his plan for Compassionate Conservatism, which would provide federal funds to local and faith-based organizations that have developed successful social programs. He also advocated allowing taxpayers who do not itemize on their federal income tax returns to take charitable deductions.

Bush and Gore have each endorsed charitable choice, the provision of the 1996 welfare reform act that allows states to contract with religious organizations to provide social services. Each candidate maintains that these programs can succeed where secular ones fail. Bush commented, "We have found that government can spend money, but it can't put hope in our hearts or a sense of purpose in our lives." Gore stated, "Faith in itself is sometimes essential to spark a personal transformation" that keeps people on the path to recovery.

Republican John McCain has spoken about charity and volunteering, and former Republican candidates Gary Bauer and Steve Forbes discussed the effect of their respective tax reform proposals on charitable giving.

Read more below about the current and former candidates' positions on charity and their own charitable practices as defined on their Web sites, in public appearances, and in responses to the media.

Gary Bauer (Republican) 

Bauer withdrew from the race on February 4, 2000

  • Asserted that faith-based organizations and programs address social problems more cost-effectively than government initiatives; promised to support these efforts if elected president
  • Proposed a flat income tax of 16 percent
  • Proposed retaining deductions for charitable contributions
In response to a question during the January 7, 2000, Republican candidates' debate, Bauer noted that he donates approximately 10 percent of his income to charity.

Bill Bradley (Democrat) 

  • Advocates a stronger partnership between nonprofit organizations, government, the business community, and individuals to address social problems
  • As part of an overall proposal to support working families, proposes enlisting retirees to mentor and tutor elementary-school children
In 1998 Bradley and his wife, Ernestine, donated approximately 1.5 percent of their income to charity; they gave a large portion of that sum to a Newark, N.J., church. Bradley has served as chair of the National Civil League and as a member of the University of Pennsylvania's Penn National Commission on Society, Culture, and Community. Ernestine Bradley is on the boards of the American Council on Germany, Youth for Understanding, and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

George W. Bush (Republican) 

Proposes a program of Compassionate Conservatism, which would:

  • Expand charitable choice
  • Change laws and regulations that hinder cooperation between government and private groups
  • Provide federal resources not only to states but also to charities and local organizations
  • Establish an Office of Faith-Based Action in the White House to identify barriers to faith-based action, act as a national clearinghouse for information on the organizations, and assist them in their dealings with the federal government
  • Allow taxpayers who do not itemize on their federal income tax returns to take deductions for charitable donations
  • During the first year of his administration, devote about $8 billion to support charities and provide tax donations and credits to encourage charitable giving
  • Identify and support private programs that work
  • Create pilot programs to provide after-school child care, treat drug addiction, create maternity homes for unwed mothers, help the incarcerated prepare for release from prison, and mentor the children of prisoners
  • Allow private and religious organizations to compete to provide services to federal, state, and local programs
Bush sees increasing the role of faith-based organizations as "the next, bold step of welfare reform." He pledges that such groups would not be required to change their missions or values in order to receive federal resources. He also promises that his administration will ensure that a secular alternative is available for each faith-based program and that the government will not discriminate between programs offered by different denominations or religions, nor between those offered by religious and secular groups.

Bush has served as chairman of the board of Hearts & Hammers; chaired the fundraising campaign for the United Way of Midland, Texas; and was on the board of the Kent Waldrep National Paralysis Foundation. His wife, Laura, works with the Barbara Bush Texas Fund for Family Literacy, is on the national board of Reading is Fundamental, and is a member of the advisory board of the University of Texas Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences.

Steve Forbes (Republican) 

Forbes withdrew from the race on February 10, 2000

  • Proposed a flat income tax of 17 percent
  • Would have eliminated the federal deduction for charitable contributions
Forbes believed that his tax plan would have increased donations to charity. Americans would have kept more of their take-home pay, he argued, and therefore given more to charities and religious organizations.

During the January 7 Republican debate, Forbes estimated that he gives 8 percent of his income to charity. He serves on the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Board of Overseers of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute, and Princeton University's Board of Trustees.

Al Gore (Democrat) 

Proposes a New Partnership between the federal government and faith- and values-based organizations, in which the government would:

  • Support successful local approaches to social problems and use those initiatives as models for other programs
  • Act in partnership with the organizations to address such problems as drug addiction, gang violence, unemployment, hunger, lack of medical care, and homelessness and to provide such services as job training, counseling, and mentoring
  • Eliminate the bureaucratic restrictions that hamper such programs
  • Expand charitable choice
  • Provide federal funds to faith- and values-based organizations and programs
  • Give the organizations a voice in his administration
  • Encourage private support for the organizations
  • Create new programs supported by government and business
Gore promises that the New Partnership will respect both freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. Faith-based programs will not be forced to alter their religious content, secular alternatives will be available, and faith- and values-based organizations will be held to the same standards of accountability as secular ones. Gore also supports using mentoring and federal funding to close the technology gap.

In 1998 Gore and his wife, Tipper, donated approximately 6.8 percent of their income to religious and educational organizations and charities that aid the homeless and the mentally ill. After Congress revised the welfare laws in 1996, Gore created the Coalition to Sustain Success to help nonprofits coordinate their responses to changes in the welfare system. Over the years he has worked with several nonprofit groups on environmental issues.

Tipper Gore has also worked with a number of nonprofit organizations, including Christ House and Habitat for Humanity in Washington, D.C. She helped establish Tennessee Voices for Children, and in 1996 she donated the earnings from her book Picture This: A Visual Diary to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

Orrin Hatch (Republican) 

Hatch withdrew from the race on January 26, 2000

Hatch stated at the January 7 Republican candidates' debate that he and his wife donate about 11 percent of their income to charity.

Alan Keyes (Republican) 

Keyes served as president of Citizens Against Government Waste and is founder and chairman of the Declaration Foundation. He also created National Taxpayer Action Day.

John McCain (Republican) 

  • Proposes using the Internet to link volunteer tutors with children
  • Would have state and local education authorities act as clearinghouses for qualified volunteers

At the January 7 Republican debate, McCain said that he donates his congressional pay raises to charity. McCain also gave the Arizona Community Foundation the advance he received from the publisher of his memoirs. McCain and his wife, Cindy, contribute to Food for the Hungry, and in 1999 the McCain family supported 100 refugee families through Food for the Hungry's Kosovar refugee programs. In May 1999 Cindy McCain traveled with AmeriCares to Macedonia to deliver medical supplies.

suzanne-coffman-150x150.jpgThe preceding post is by Suzanne Coffman, GuideStar’s editorial director. See more of Suzanne’s sector findings and musings on philanthropy here on our blog. 

Topics: Charity