Open Phones: Do Your Politics Influence Your Charitable Donations?

Monday, January 13, 2014

A woman makes a donation into a Salvation Army kettle outside a Giant grocery store November 24, 2012, in Clifton, Virgina. Bell ringers William Schmidt (L) and his grandson Bubba Wellens (C). (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty)

Do your political leanings influence how you choose to give? New City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito recently released tax documents that showed she didn't donate any money to charity in 2012. Does that bother you, or are you satisfied that as a liberal politician she does enough to support programs for the poor or other causes that are important to you?

Give us a call at 212-433-9692, or leave a comment here to contribute to the discussion. 


Comments [33]

Jan from NJ

I don't consider whether a "charity" is 501(c)-worthy a significant indicator of worth. I've been funding a lot of Kickstarter film projects. Not deductible. Important? Yes. Some of these documentaries have a chance to change the world. Big charities take chunks for themselves, no? The last thing on my mind when considering giving is if the recipient has it together enough to officially register with with the government.

Jan. 15 2014 10:17 PM
LizM from Kingston, NY

Charitable giving should be a personal choice. As such, it is a reflection of one's beliefs about our society and whether people who have more money than they need in our current times should step up to help others less fortunate. Because I believe that charitable giving is a must for people who have money to spare, knowing that a politician I voted for does not give to charity would cause me to reconsider voting for that person again. That's the only language a politician understands after all.

Jan. 14 2014 06:22 PM
JF from Brooklyn

How can you be a living, breathing, thinking, and caring person living in New York City and not give away some of your resources, especially if you are at a certain income level? Libraries, parks, museums, zoos, food banks, scholarship funds, schools, public radio and television - they are depend on the generosity of the citizenry to support and sustain their missions. Some will think this unfair, but I've certainly lost some respect for the City Council Speaker if she did indeed not donate any of her income in 2012.

Jan. 14 2014 11:18 AM
Rev Carmen Hernandez from Bronx NY

We as a community and in politics has forgotten what is really to give. I have learn that no one have to give you anything, No One!! Period! If people give to your cause count it a blessing that the Lord has touch their hearts to help you or your organization. I been an advocate and activist for over three decades now and never once in my life made money out of anything I did in my life. And never have I encounter with a politician to give out of their hearts in my non-profit organization only a handful, which by the way my organization is closed. Some have thrown in my face what they have one time or another given to my cause, they have slander my name cause I simply don't support them in their politics. And I wonder did they help me cause they wanted to or because they really care of what I do for others.

The times that I have met Madam Speaker MMV, she has shown me respect and a good conversation and that is it. I am not a buddy of hers, I am a fan who admire the works that she does and how she handle things in politics which I only wish the Bronx County learn from her. Instead of finding things to bash her. Why don't you have a meeting with her and say what can I do to help you and help my society be a better community. What can I do to help you help my people. Is not what she can do for you is what you can do for her to help your own.

Jan. 13 2014 02:24 PM
Thomas More from Sunshine State

"LOL, yea, LEFTIES ARE CHEAPER !!!! They are hypocrites."

Heaven knows how generous of spirit YOU are, oh cowardly troll behind the monicker providing daily proof of your empathy and compassion here on the Brian Lehrer comments page. Why, you are a veritable deluge of thoughtfulness and anonymous charitable giving, all secreted from parts unknown but knowable. The repetition of your giving -- and you do keep giving, every single day -- astounds me. I know it astounds many others, as well. Right. Left. Good. Evil, Black. White. Rich. Poor. Either. Or. Neither. Nor.

Jan. 13 2014 11:39 AM

I tend to give to organizations that reflect my liberal political concerns--mostly environmental and human rights causes, food banks and limited political campaigns--probably amounting to $600 or so a year on an under-$50,000 income. Itemizing these contributions on my tax return makes no difference in the ultimate tax bill/payment and therefore do not appear on my tax return. While it is possible that this is the case with Ms. Mark-Viverito, it would have been easy for her to explain that this was the case and she did not. I am more troubled by her failure to report the rental income on the disclosure form. If you report rental income on your IRS form, it seems odd that one could overlook a simple YES/NO question on a disclosure form. I wonder if it may have had more to do with raising a flag regarding the purchase of a townhouse via a program that offered interest and tax breaks, when her net worth may have made her ineligible for such a program. I have questions, not a judgment at this point. However, I am sorry that a woman who represents all that Ms. Mark-Viverito purports to represent has allowed this situation to diminish her standing.

Jan. 13 2014 11:36 AM
John A.

I'm religious, I give, and BTW resist any any all attempts by the republicans to claim they're the one and only party to go to that supports religion. That's the big lie.

Jan. 13 2014 11:29 AM
RP Cohen from Port Wash, NY

If I had a million dollars I would give it to NPR, but I don't. I have tried volunteering to supliment my meager member contribution and offered my time and talent for free. I have spent my preretirment years working in Film TV and Radio, have quite a resume and now I am ready to 'give back". But, no takers. Just a form letter from WNYC saying you are not taking volunteers at this time. I would prefer to volunteer to better society in a field I know but the fear of an old guy like me is too much for the young guys in charge. I'm not looking for a job, just a place to offer my time and talents to a worthy cause. I guess there is a perception that I know too much, Too bad but why don't you talk about seventy year olds who still have the talent, energy and a lot to offer. Stop being so selfish.

Jan. 13 2014 11:25 AM
Maggie from Nj

The idea of not taking the charitable deduction to prove that the coontribution comes from the heart makes no sense at all. The charitable deduction allows me to give more money to charity. I'd simply be forced to give less if I were not able to take it off my taxes.

Jan. 13 2014 11:17 AM

Personally, I feel that some people donate time and time is sometimes more valuable than throwing money at a problem. I say this having worked for 18 years for nonprofit organizations. Also, there are many charities that do more harm than good - reinventing discredited programs that lead to dependence rather than building sustainable programs. Much of the giving of the wealthy centers on putting plaques with their name on the "monument" building they financed. That may or may not do anything whatsoever for improving the underlying problem that the people housed in that building are supposed to address. Are we going to now have a round of evaluating which charities politicians favor as a new "gotcha" in addition to "how much" they give? Really at her income level she isn't making that much in New York City that I care one way or another.

If we had a functional society we wouldn't NEED charity.

Jan. 13 2014 11:17 AM
Charles from Tribeca

Charitable donations are a tax deduction. It enables the rich to decide how their taxes are spent. If it wasn't a deduction, do you think the rich would give anything? For donations to be truly benevolent, they should not be tax deductible.

Jan. 13 2014 11:11 AM
Laena from Brooklyn, NY

The new speaker's lack of charity seems to demonstrate a lack of commitment to her own espoused values and policies.

Jan. 13 2014 11:10 AM

This whole discussions seems inappropriate to me. Charity is a personal decision. As George Steinbrenner used to say, "If more than two people know what you're doing, you're doing it for the wrong reason". The Speaker's lack of contributions may be evidence of a character flaw, just as other personal matters (having an adulterous affair, being mean to pets) may do so. But I think our experience shows that a politician's personal choices are best left out of the public discussion.

As for "adjusting for religion" that's nonsense. You can argue about whether attending a Met Opera gala adds more to society than subsidizing missionary work or church maintenance, but I don't know how you adjust for it.

Jan. 13 2014 11:09 AM
Syd UWS from UWS

------>Cliff from Highland Park New Jersey
THIS person thinks that paying extra taxes has more of an impact on people in need than donating 5 hours of your time or donating an equal amount to a charitable organization. I'm dumbfounded.

Jan. 13 2014 11:09 AM
Lenore from Manhattan

Meanness of spirit--great phrase. Generosity is a prime value of Buddhism, for example.

My politics (left) certainly inform my contributions, which are a very important part of my financial life. I am now retired and cutting back on contributions. But I have begun to give less to some organizations so that I can give more to NYC food banks.

It makes a great difference to me that she does not give charitable contributions. It matters. I didn't make that much money but I was blessed with a low rent and gave around $6000 a year to a raft of organizations. I think that is important.

And to the caller just now, don't take the tax deduction--that is nonsense!

Jan. 13 2014 11:08 AM
carolita from nyc

It's none of our business. Maybe she doesn't trust charitable organizations. Maybe she'd rather change the world with her actions. Maybe she is very good at her job. She hasn't broken any laws, she hasn't committed any crimes. Why are we attacking her? I think people are acting really sanctimonious about their own "tithing" and charitable donations. Are you just mad at her for not being a WNYC subscriber?

Jan. 13 2014 11:07 AM

Charitable organizations relay on cash donations and volunteer contributions. Volunteers give their TIME, which has a value - most likely not listed on income tax forms. I give my cash to public radio and my time and vegetables to our local food pantry. I list neither on my income tax forms.

Jan. 13 2014 11:06 AM
Cerene from Earth

Not all good causes have a 501 (c)3. So the fact that a donation doesn't qualify for tax benefits does not mean that a gift of money or goods was not made.

Jan. 13 2014 11:06 AM
Cliff from Highland Park New Jersey

I would like to challenge the notion that it is somehow incumbent upon liberals to donate private funds to charities, with or without a liberal bent.

Many liberals, myself included, believe that social problems are best addressed through public expenditures, rather than through the voluntarism so dear to conservatives.

Jan. 13 2014 11:05 AM
Persa from Park Slope

1) How do you know she hasn't donated without declaring it on her taxes? Maybe she doesn't want the world to know what she gave money to. Loads of people with money give money anonymously and don't want to discuss it.

2) Without knowing what her expenses are, we have no way to provide context for her giving or lack thereof. It's not about how much money you have, it's about how much you need. Is she supporting other family members? Do we know this?

Why are you randomly throwing shade at someone's charitable contributions anyway? Bloomberg is on a whole other level of wealthy.

This entire segment has a nasty "shaming" note to it. I think folks charitable contributions should be non of anyone's business as long as they have done so legally.

Jan. 13 2014 11:05 AM

Do as I say, not as I do.

I am sure she is really good at donating other peoples money to help her political agenda. For her to have donated nothing is an obvious display of her selfish nature.

Jan. 13 2014 11:05 AM

What about time? People give of their time so they can personally affect a situation of need. Why the focus on money? It is so easy to write a check but that doesn't really guaranty charitable works get done.

Also, in a recent study, so much of charitable donations (over half) go to overhead versus actual aide.

Jan. 13 2014 11:04 AM
karl from Bklyn hgts

Liberals, iirc, give disproportionately to organizations that only really benefit rich white people, like the opera and other cultural institutions. That is hardly charity for the poor. Churches tend to service a slightly wider economic demographic.

Jan. 13 2014 11:04 AM
SydneyUWS from UWS

Brian - You suggested that somehow donating to a religious organization is not as charitable as donating to a non-charitable organization because the money might be sued to "keep the lights on" which is exactly where money goes for secular non profits. I find that the money I donate to my church goes VERY far to help those in need in NYC. How could you make such an offensive and wrong distinction?

Jan. 13 2014 11:04 AM

Politics; independent, vaguely progressive. i donate disproportionately to my income, mostly to animal and environmental groups. In my opinion, the natural world is besieged, and needs all the help it can get.

Jan. 13 2014 11:01 AM
Steve from Upper West Side - Manhattan

This segment could be interesting on its own, but regarding Melissa Mark-Viverito -- MUCH ADO ABOUT NUTTIN'.

Jan. 13 2014 11:01 AM
Ben from Westchester

Of course politics influences contributions. My wife and I, for example, look at the broad areas we wish to fund -- Education, Poverty, International Affairs, NYC Culture, Jewish causes, etc. -- and we figure out what to give.

Each of those "areas" have politics very much alive and resident underneath them. Giving internationally, for example, do you fund Haiti, Doctors Without Borders, American Jewish World Service, or who? Any decision involves your political views and ideas.

The real question here is can you support someone politically who doesn't give at all? For me, the answer is no. Charity is something you "practice," not something you "do." Even if you make only $30,000 per year, then you should take a few percent or your income and think about how you would give away $300 or so per year.

Someday, if you are wealthy, then you can increase your giving. But if it is not a habit, then it reflects on your personal ethics.

Jan. 13 2014 10:59 AM

What does it mean to "adjust for religious beliefs". If someone gives charity to a religious organization that does fabulous work with needy people, that's not considered charity?!?

Jan. 13 2014 10:57 AM

Well, it is possible that her charitable donations weren't large enough for her to itemize....The conclusion ('did not donate any money') does not follow.

Jan. 13 2014 10:57 AM
PriscilaN from Brooklyn

It might matter to me, though my perspective would depend largely on her income - can you share more details on how much she made Brian?

Jan. 13 2014 10:57 AM
Aaron from Queens

Maybe she didn't itemize on her return? sometimes its not worth it even if you do make donations

Jan. 13 2014 10:56 AM
BK from Hoboken

For those of us in NJ our federal taxes feel like a charitable deduction because we get diddly back from DC. Thank you I will be here all week!
Seriously, this means nothing. The Koch brothers give millions to charity. George Soros gives millions. Who cares. If she doesn't donate it doesn't mean that she can't have a certain political viewpoint (even if I don't wholly agree with said viewpoint).

Jan. 13 2014 10:56 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

LOL, yea, LEFTIES ARE CHEAPER !!!! They are hypocrites.
Countless examples....remember Al Gore's few hundred dollars on his hundreds of thousands?

Latest example - our new Radical Left redistributionist Speaker of the City Council (they love to give away other people's money) Melissa Mark-Viverito:


"Melissa Mark-Viverito did not donate any money to charity in 2012, despite earning a combined $128,575, between her Council salary and rental income from property she owns, according to tax returns that were released by a spokesman late on Friday."

Jan. 13 2014 09:58 AM

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