When it comes to manipulating charitable giving for personal and political ends, Newt Gingrich wrote the book. In 1997, his charity work won him the dubious distinction of being the first House speaker ever disciplined by his peers for ethical wrongdoing. Congress fined Gingrich $300,000 in connection with claiming tax-exempt status for "Renewing American Civilization," a college course he'd taught for political purposes.
Gingrich has been at it again. Over the past two years, a Gingrich charity called Renewing American Leadership paid $220,000 to Gingrich Communications, one of his for-profit companies. The purchases included books authored by Gingrich, such as The Fight for America's Future and Rediscovering God in America. Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, told ABC News that the arrangement violates the spirit of how nonprofits are supposed to work.
Of course, Gingrich isn't the only cause that Gingrich supports. While his personal charitable contributions are opaque—he neglected to itemize the $71,593 he claimed in donations on his 2010 tax return—he did disclose a $9,540 payment to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a church where his wife, Callista, sings in the choir. The couple apparently gave considerably more through the Gingrich Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit which listed Gingrich Holdings as its sole 2010 donor, with Newt as a board member and Callista as president. Here's an annotated breakdown of its $120,000 in charitable donations for 2010. (Click here for a look at Mitt Romney's charitable giving.)
Mount Vernon Association: $10,000
Supports Mount Vernon
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: $20,000
More support for Gingrich's church. A few years ago, he converted from Southern Baptism to Catholicism.
Shiloh Point Elementary: $1,000
An elementary school in Cumming, Ga. Gingrich formerly represented Georgia's 6th Congressional District.
American Museum of Natural History: $15,000
The natural history museum in New York City
Washington National Opera (DC): $10,000
Gingrich is a fan.
The Atlanta Ballet: $10,000
Speaking to C-Span in 1995, Gingrich cited the Atlanta Ballet as the kind of local arts organization that deserves more federal support. "There are institutions that are good, and there are institutions that do a good job," he explained.
Learning Makes a Difference Foundation: $5,000
An educational nonprofit run by Gingrich's daughter, Jackie Cushman, a conservative political columnist
Arthritis Foundation: $10,000
Gingrich's other daughter, Kathy Lubbers, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.
Mount Paran Christian School: $2,500
In 1992, George H.W. Bush spoke here in favor of increasing federal funding for parochial schools.
The Walker School: $2,500
A private, nonsectarian college prep school in Marietta, Ga.
Luther College: $30,000
Callista Gingrich's alma mater
Susan Chambers Dance Company: $3,000
According to its website, this Sugar Hill, Ga. dance company is a training ground for "pre-professional dancers ages 7 to 18."
Breast Cancer Research Foundation: $500
Atonement, perhaps, for Gingrich's famously having dumped his ex-wife while she was in the hospital recovering from breast cancer treatment?
Alzheimer's Association: $500
In July, the Washington Post's Philip Rucker cited a Gingrich speech on Alzheimer's as an example of how "Gingrich believes he can sew together enough narrow constituencies to make a coalition—an unconventional one, but a coalition nonetheless."
(Click here for a look at Mitt Romney's charitable giving.)