Rick Santorum Wednesday night released to Politico four years of personal tax returns, covering 2007 through 2010. That’s more 1040s than either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich have made public.
But commitment to disclosure isn’t the only issue here. Do Mr. Santorum’s personal finances, as detailed in the returns, say anything interesting about him as a candidate for president?
Well, political applicability is in the eye of the beholder. But some things struck us during a preliminary study of the documents.
The former Pennsylvania Senator earned more than $3.6 million over the period in question. That’s not nearly what Gingrich made from his various business enterprises, and Romney probably has employees that earn that much. But in the context of the nation as a whole Santorum is part of the 1 percent.
Santorum himself downplays his newly-disclosed wealth, pointing out that among other things he’s lost a lot of wealth from a drop in the value of his real estate, and he has large expenses for the care of a special needs child.
Much of it's Washington money
Santorum‘s post-Senate income is dependent on the connections he made in the nation’s capital. For instance, he was paid $65,000 by the American Continental Group, a D.C. lobbying firm, according to an Associated Press analysis. He made $125,000 from the Clapham Group, a Virginia firm that helps religious rights organizations in D.C.
As for corporate connections, he made $142,500 as a consultant to Consul Energy, a Pennsylvania firm with coal mine holdings. In 2009 and 2010, Santorum earned a total of $1.37 million in media appearance and consulting fees paid through his own Excelsior LLC.
His tax rate's higher than Romney's
In 2010, for instance, Santorum earned $930,230, and paid $263,440 in taxes, for an effective rate of 28.3 percent. In none of the years covered did he pay less than 25 percent.
This is due to the fact that Santorum’s money was almost all earned income, which is taxed at a higher rate than investments. Investments are the basis of Romney’s fortune. By way of comparison, Romney paid 13.9 percent of his income in taxes in 2010.
He didn't give much to charity
Santorum is not a tither. In no year did he give more than 3 percent of his income to charities, as revealed in claims for charitable deductions. One year he gave less than 2 percent.
What does all this mean, politically-speaking? Well, the Washington Post’s conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin thinks the low charitable contributions number could be a problem.
“So much of Santorum’s career and a good deal of his writing focus on faith-based charities. So why did he personally give so little to the groups he lauds?” she wrote Thursday in her Right Turn blog.
In addition, he may be open to charges from the Romney camp that he’s a Washington insider. Like Gingrich, Santorum never registered as a lobbyist. But also like Gingrich, Santorum’s money is a mix of consulting fees from firms and groups with interests before Congress and fees for talking about politics on TV.
None of that should be surprising, of course – that’s what ex-Senators do. But Restore Our Future, the super PAC associated with the Romney campaign, has already been running ads that attempt to paint Santorum as part of the Washington problem, and it’s likely they’ll now recut those ads to include some of the information contained in the Santorum 1040s.