Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mark Dayton's Charitable Giving

I worked for the Dayton Hudson Corporation (and it’s successor Target Corporation) for over a decade starting in the late 90’s. One thing that was drilled into our heads repeatedly was the company’s stance on charitable giving. The company had a long standing tradition of donating 5% of its pre-tax profits back to the community. It was something they were proud of, and should be.

To the best of my knowledge, Mark Dayton, now Minnesota’s Governor, never worked in the family business. Maybe he did, but apparently the tradition didn’t rub off.

Dayton released his tax returns this week, which showed that he had a personal income of $343,234. The return also showed he had charitable donations of $1000. That’s about 0.3%.

Dayton later said that he is “embarrassed” by his lack of giving.

“I pride myself on my charitable giving and I’m disappointed in myself,” Dayton said at the end of a briefing with reporters on another issue. “I totaled it up and noticed I had fallen off, so I will remedy that.”

The drop was significant from 2009, when Dayton, then a gubernatorial candidate, earned $172,475 mostly from family trusts, and donated nearly $27,000 of that to charity.

Though it does seem to me that Dayton’s level of giving has been… shall we say… erratic.

Dayton gave $1,750 to charity in 2011, when his earnings totaled $342,322.

If Mark Dayton were a private citizen, I wouldn’t care how much of his money he gave away. I don’t think that anyone should be compelled to give to charity. What you do with your money is your business.

But Mark Dayton is the Governor, and has been a frequent employer of class warfare as a means to get what he wants. For instance, he pushed through a tax increase this year by riding a wave of anti-“1%” sentiment.

It’s also interesting to note that candidates for MN Governor aren’t required to disclose their tax returns. Dayton does so voluntarily, so this revelation about his inner grinch, and any damage it does to him, is totally self inflicted.

I wouldn’t worry too much about Dayton’s reputation though. He has the media to make sure that we know that Dayton “still gave back last year in the form of taxes.

The notion that paying compulsory taxes somehow equates to “giving back” is not unique on the left, or in the media (forgive the redundancy).

In fact, it is one of the major philosophical differences between the left and right. Leftists like Mark Dayton believe in compelling people to “give back” through taxes, while people on the right believe in the power of private charity and voluntary donations.

You can see this divide quite clearly when you examine the tax return of one of Dayton’s challengers in the Governor’s race. Senator Dave Thompson showed charitable donations of over $20,000 on income of just under $200k.

That’s a rate of about 10%, something Thompson should be proud of. I’d imagine Mark Dayton’s forebears would approve.