March 13, 2008

2006: Obamas donated $22,500 to Wright's Trinity church

My hope has long been that Barack Obama's heart moved from the far left toward the political center sometime between his 1995 autobiography and now (perhaps after his disillusioning defeat to an ex-Black Panther in a House Democratic primary in 2000).

When Sen. Obama recently addressed Jewish leaders concerned about Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr and his outspoken admiration for Louis Farrakhan, the candidate attempted to give the impression that his pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ was old and a relic of the 1960s. (Wright is five years younger than John McCain.) But he has appeared to be extremely reluctant to spell out exactly where he disagrees with his pastor other than over his spiritual advisor's admiration for Louis Farrakhan.

It's hard to know what's in a man's heart, especially in the heart of someone as verbally gifted and cautious as the Democratic frontrunner. We do have one objective source of data, however: the Obama family's charitable contributions according to their tax returns of 1998, 2005, and 2006.

The Obamas didn't give a lot to charity until they hit it rich in 2005 with Barack's book deal and Michelle's big raise, but what's of interest here is the pattern of donations. Was there a relative fall-off in support for Wright's Trinity church as they matured politically and emotionally?

According to a 2007 Chicago Tribune story:

"Only a few of the tax returns released by Obama detail the recipients of his charity. In 1998, when the Obamas reported a combined household income of $191,146 and $1,100 in cash donations to charity, the biggest gift went to Trinity. It totaled $400, about 0.2 percent of their combined income.

"In 2005 they gave the church $5,000 and in 2006 it received $22,500."

So, in two of the three years for which we have numbers (1998 and 2006), Wright's Trinity church was the top recipient of the Obama family's contributions. Now, 2006 really wasn't very long ago...

Obamas' Gifts 1998 2005 2006
Gifts to Trinity 400 5,000 22,500
Total Charity 1,100 77,300 60,307
Trinity % 36% 6% 37%


Anonymous said...

Uh, Steve, have you ever heard of tithing? You are a conservative, right?

Anonymous said...

Isn’t Obama between a rock and a hard place on this issue? On the one hand, Obama supporters claim that the charge that he is a “secret Muslim” is part of some (racist) conspiracy against him, but they and Obama himself refute the Muslim thing by noting his 20 year church attendance.

The problem is that Obama has never attended any church except for Pastor Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. And if Americans get to see the video of the “services” at the church, they will surely not like what they see. The raucous behavior of both the “pastors” and the “congregation” is simply not what most people expect to see. The content won’t please many people either. So, I’d guess that the video of Obama’s church services won’t get much air time going forward.

But the question is, if Obama is running in part on his being a church going “Christian”, then doesn’t this open up the issue of what kind of “religion” he has been practicing.

As for the Obama’s giving money to that church, whether it is tithing or not, it still constitutes support for and approval of Pastor Wright and the message he has been sending from his pulpit.

Anonymous said...

The money nails it. Obama approves of Wright's message.

Fun. I figured Hillary's media people would run with this when it went down to the wire. Man in unelectable.

And Steve, sorry to say you share (to be honest with you) the same disease as the media, which is a belief or hope in princes and kings. Some magic champion who'll solve race issues. Implying the perfectability of the human race if JUST the right man can be found.

The conservative view is that people being flawed make only marginal improvements but over time that adds up.

Forget Obama, give me practical pols who show they can win White voters (who make up the majority, and overwhelming majority) by fashioning policies and programs that benefit their wide coalition. By all accounts Wellington Webb never set the world on fire but Denver did alright by him. He won by appealing to mostly White (and some Latino voters). That's positive, as was Michael Steele's race in Maryland, being a trailblazer in the Republican Party. Obama is the past, they are the future. Of continual marginal improvement.

It may be a very interesting year. We could see Sharpton and Farrakhan totally suck up all media coverage in Denver. Obama the "racialist Black candidate" bringing down all the Blue Dogs and handing Congress back to Republicans. [Which would be a good thing.] Dems now have a generic advantage but tying say Dem candidates in the South and West to Obama/Sharpton/Farrakhan/Wright is the smart play for the RNC.

[I don't think the FORM of Black Churches will bother anyone. The Blues Brothers is a perennial favorite and that James Brown number hilarious. But the content? "God Damn America" just lost the election for Dems and Obama. THAT is the 527 Ad (plus the Obama donation) right there.]

Anonymous said...

I don't think Obama's pastor will play too well in the purple or red states:

-Steve Johnson

Anonymous said...

To be fair, there are two possible special reasons for the large 2006 contributions: 1) Obama's view that he owed something to Wright for using his catchphrase and improvement philosophy for his campaign book, "Audacity of Hope," from which he made large financial gains; and 2) the church's help in keeping him moral and self-disciplined, especially sexually and with respect to his family, which is one of the genuinely attractive aspects of the man. But I agree, his real views on a lot of matters is still a mystery.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Steve, have you ever heard of tithing? You are a conservative, right?

For a guy you would assume is just tithing, his donations to a church he has attended (for two decades) as a percentage of total donations certainly fluctuates.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and a third exculpatory reason for Obama's 2006 generosity to Wright's church: Obama did not develop his speaking skills sitting in front of a Harvard Law School lecturer.

I am doing my best for the defense today. I will cross back to the prosecution table tomorrow. For example, why does a graduate of HLS hold such juvenile views on Constitutional law and the best qualifications for Supreme Court nominations? And how did an obviously bright graduate of Columbia miss 200 years of argument and evidence on the general advantages of free trade? Of course, Obama is not the only smart Intellectual Luddite on trade theory. Paul Craig Roberts, call Roger Sherman. (Sorry, inside UVA joke.)

Anonymous said...

Wright is apparently a member of Obama's African American Religious Leadership Committee:

Wright's Committee

Renowned Faith Leaders Come Together to Support Obama

Anonymous said...

Wright also claims the United States invented HIV.

Prediction: somewhere in the voluminous collection of recorded Wright sermons available on his website he claims that the CIA invented crack cocaine.

Stopped Clock said...

Obama says that he disagrees with Rev Wright on some things. To be fair to Obama, pretty much every Democratic candidate disagrees with their church on some things because so far they have all belonged to mainstream denominations such as Baptistdom, which are all far out of step with the social policies of the Democratic Party. And nobody brought up footage of Bill Clinton's Baptist preacher and said "look at what HE just said! Do you agree with that?" It was just taken to be true when Clinton said that he believed in the religion but not in the politics. So why can't we do it for Obama?

Im going to try to answer my own question: maybe it is because it's very hard to tell the difference between a black radical and a mainstream black liberal. Whereas conservative whites have a whole political party dedicated to them, black radicals have to share rooms with coolheaded black liberals and white liberals too, and generally keep their mouths shut when they feel the urge to say something inflammatory. So this means that for all we know, Obama might be one of them. The fact that Obama goes to a church with Wright as its pastor goes to show that he really might, deep down, agree with Wright, and just be very good at hiding it when he's in public.

Jim Baird said...

It's interesting that Wright seems to be even whiter-looking than Obama. I guess it's a confirmation of your rule that the less black a "black" public figure is, the more the left they become to compensate...

Anonymous said...

After seeing those 1998 figures, I reminded of Al Gore and generally speaking what hypocritical tight-wads liberals are.

Of course, liberals are hypocrits about everything, but charity is something I find most galling.

Anonymous said...

So, I’d guess that the video of Obama’s church services won’t get much air time going forward.

They don't need air time. This is the age of YouTube. They're on YouTube. Find one or two of the best and email the link to all of your friends.

Anonymous said...

So the Obama's charitable donations go uo from $1,100 in 1998 to over $60,000 in 2005 and 2006?

Did their incomes really climb so much in that time asto justify that increase? In 2005 Obama was already being bandied about as a potential presidential candidate in '08. He knew that people would want to see his tax returns and that they would reflect who he was. So the Obama's boosted their donations. Consider it an investment.

Anonymous said...

After seeing those 1998 figures, I reminded of Al Gore and generally speaking what hypocritical tight-wads liberals are.

If you stop and look at how a lot of charities are spending their monies you'd become a charitable tightwad, too. The United Way in my city is up at the state legislature every year advocating for in-state tuition or illegals. Pass by any community health clinic and what you'll notice first is that nearly all of the people going in are Hispanic (and not speaking English). A girl I know who worked at one of the clinics told me that virtually every person who worked there was required to know Spanish.

Churches, even purported rightwing ones like the Mormons, have bent over backwards to defend illegal immigration.

And let's not even get started on universities...

The irony is that the left should love funding groups like these, but they don't, while rightwingers should be more tsingy with their dollars, but aren't.

Anyone asks me if I give to charity anymore and I say "Yes - my family."