Gov. Mark Dayton donated $10,000 of his personal wealth to charity last year

mark dayton rect.jpg
Gov. Mark Dayton's 2013 tax return was released last week and shows that he gave $10,000 to charities -- 10 times as much as last year.

His office did not respond to our request for comment, but judging by previous news coverage, the boost came in response to the governor's own criticism last November. When asked then about the mere $1,000 he had donated, he told reporters, "I'm disappointed in myself."

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Dayton earned less in 2013 than in past years, but his income still places him among the richest Minnesotans. The heir to the Dayton's department store fortune made most of his wealth without lifting a finger -- $163,405 in capital gains and $73,062 in dividends -- plus $116,092 in salary, for a total of $352,601. His effective tax rate was 30 percent, meaning he paid $76,008 to the feds and $29,932 to the state.

To his credit, Dayton has released his financial data (or part of it) every year since running for the governor's office. In 2009, for instance, he claimed nearly $27,000 in charitable contributions. The largest of those went to Planned Parenthood, MinnPost, and YMCA Camp Widjiwagan. (It's not immediately clear who benefited in 2013, but take a look at the returns on the next page.)

In years past, he's also pressured his Republican challengers to release their returns. So we went looking ourselves. Jeff Johnson's campaign intends to make those public this week, and Kurt Zellers's people say they're working on it. No one from Scott Honour's camp returned our message.

Marty Seifert straight-up declined our request, saying in an emailed statement,
I don't think our income tax return is anyone's business, but can assure you our household income is less than the other GOP candidates and much less than Governor Dayton.
So why not prove it? We asked one of his handlers for an explanation, but never heard back.

Candidates are not required to release their financial data in Minnesota, but they are required to file an economic interest statement with the campaign finance and public disclosure board.

Seifert's shows that he runs Seifert Properties, LLC, which owns eight pieces of property in Lyon and Redwood counties (and has ties to two more). The candidate also owns shares of a Putnam Investments growth fund and sits on the board of governors for both Granite Falls Energy, LLC, and Heron Lake BioEnergy, LLC.

Seifert might not care for it, but plenty of other pols do. In fact, the tradition of releasing tax returns comes from our 38th president. After Richard Nixon's resignation -- and an IRS scandal now overshadowed by Watergate -- Gerald Ford used his financial records to prove to the public that he himself was not a crook. Politicians across the country followed suit, believing, as Johnson campaign manager Scot Crockett put it, "voters deserve transparency from their elected officials."

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse



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8 comments
Mackenzie Denny
Mackenzie Denny

Well, at least you can always shame some charity out of people, am i right? High five anyone? XD

Alan Wenker
Alan Wenker

Steven, you can donate as much as you want and deduct it all, but the limits are based upon your income. $10,000 is chump change for someone of his heritage.

Sco Kel
Sco Kel

Last year (2012)he donated $1000. What a fake. He's been really good at donating our money to failed social programs

Steven James Røste
Steven James Røste

Someone can double check me on this... but I believe this is correct... The maximum allowable amount that can be deducted from your income taxes for donations to charitable organizations is $10,000. Money donated above and beyond $10,000 is not tax deductible. Being that he's close to retirement age and probably has a lot of money invested, he probably made more money last year by making that donation than if he didn't donate any of it. (tax deductions from donations reduce how much income tax you have to pay, including the income from taxable investments) Therefore, any donation made up to $10,000 is essentially a tool used to modify how much you pay in income tax, and is essentially subsidizing his income up to $10,000 (tax free). Some people donate to lower their tax bracket category if they're near a threshold income value. Therefore, whenever any person makes a "donation," that person is not really making a true charitable donation unless it's above and beyond $10,000, or if that person chooses not to claim the donation on their taxes (which tends to happen with smaller cash donations). Any "donation" you make that is claimed on your taxes up to $10,000 is just a tool to modify what you pay in taxes. For a rough, simplified example, If you donate $10,000, and you are in the 25% tax bracket, and you claim the whole donation on your taxes, you get refunded $2,500. Therefore, your actual donation out of your pocket was only $7,500, and the other $2,500 was paid for by taxpayers. Being that Dayton is probably in a higher tax bracket... maybe ~35%?, he actually gets a larger deduction, and the taxpayers have to contribute more. Some politicians go on to create Super PACs that fall under the "charitable organization" category. Then they have those organizations contribute money back to their own campaign. Therefore, they actually profit off of donating to themselves. The Koch brothers are really good at. :-)

BoDarville
BoDarville

Way to go, Mark.  That's like me giving 76 cents.

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