The Audacity Of Presidential Giving

The Audacity Of Presidential Giving


President Barack Obama put his money where his mouth is on Thursday, selecting 10 charities to receive the $1.4 million in cash that he received from his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize award. Ever since the President was notified that he would be the recipient of the prestigious Nobel tribute in the spring of 2009, pundits and political analysts have been proffering their own ideas about what he might do with the money, up to and including designating which charities might be “appropriate” for Obama to chose.

“Based on Obama’s own stated priorities, one could speculate that the president might donate the funds to organizations dedicated to our nuclear disarmament and to agencies that act to make Muslims more mainstream in our country.”

Gail Perry,

Others speculated at length about the impact that receiving and disbursing the funds would have on Obama’s tax return.

“Some experts say it would be politically expedient for Obama to take the money into his taxable income and then show the charitable contributions on his tax return–since generally, the tax returns of a sitting president are disclosed for public viewing. That would support his policy of spreading the wealth around.  Others think that using the prize money to reduce his taxable income would give him the appearance of trying to shelter income by excluding it. Limiting his taxable income in this way would be “too great a public relations detriment” to him. Ironically […] because of public disclosure and in the interest of public relations, Obama may have to forego using legitimate, beneficial tax provisions.”

Ellen April, Loyola Law School in Los Angeles

In spite of all the hullaballoo, Obama managed to come up with a list of 10 places he could donate the money, charitable organizations that met the universal “Kumbaya” criteria while at the same time satisfying the commander-in-chief’s penchant for making his public actions serve double duty as both signs of no-nonsense decision-making and as symbolic indicators of inclusiveness.

The Audacity Of Presidential Giving:

Obama split his $1.4 million winnings between 10 charities.

The President said he’d donate $250,000 to Fisher House, a nonprofit that helps provide housing to families of military patients receiving care at VA hospitals, as well as another $200,000 to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, headed by the former presidents to organize earthquake relief to Haiti.

“These organizations do extraordinary work in the United States and abroad helping students, veterans and countless others in need,” Obama said in a statement. “I’m proud to support their work.”

President Obama gave $125,000 to College Summit, a non-profit to help prepare elementary and middle-school students for graduating high school and going to college.

The Posse Foundation, which provides scholarships to high school students, received $125,000, as did the United Negro College Fund, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and the American Indian College Fund.

The President donated an additional $125,000 to the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation, which provides scholarships to students in Appalachia to encourage them to pursue higher education.

Obama gave $100,000 to Africare, an organization providing assistance in African nations for healthcare and HIV/AIDS, food security and agriculture, and water resource development.

He also donated $100,000 to the Central Asia Institute, which promotes community-based education with an emphasis on young girls, in rural areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Hill

Although all sitting presidents, ex-presidents, and ex-vice presidents who’ve won Nobel prizes have given the cash portion of the award to charity, none of them have donated to as broad a range of causes as President Obama.