Dick Cheney made more than twice what George Bush did in 2006 and gave half as much as a percentage of income to charity as his boss.
President Bush and his wife, Laura, gave over 12 percent to charity, according to information the White House released on Friday about their 2006 tax return.
"President and Mrs. Bush contributed $78,100 to churches and charitable organizations, including the Crawford Volunteer Fire Department, the Federal Government's Combined Federal Campaign, Operation Smile, Martha's Table, the Salvation Army, Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the Yellow Ribbon Support Center," said a White House press release.
The Bushes reported a taxable income of $642,905.
Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne earned $1,614,862 and gave $104,425 to charity in 2006.
The Cheneys gave over 6 percent to charitable causes. They did not identify their charities.
In Bush's first year as president, he and his wife had a taxable income of $711,453 and gave $82,700 to charity.
The White House said they gave in 2001 to "Tarrytown United Methodist Church, Evergreen Chapel (Camp David Church), Southern Methodist University, September 11th-related funds, and a variety of other charities."
The Cheneys, on the other hand, had a taxable income of $4,308,142. Their total donation to charity in 2001 was $79,275.
That year the Bushes gave almost 12 percent to charitable causes, while the Cheney's gave less than 2 percent.
What explains the substantive difference in the charitable giving between Bush and Cheney?
Both were born in the 1940s, albeit six years apart. Both attended Yale University. Both had DUI arrests. Both are long time members of the same political party. Both have offices in the White House, meet together regularly and are Washington insiders. Both have two daughters each.
Cheney attends a United Methodist Church, according to Wikipedia, although he has an invisible record of churchmanship.
Bush has a record of actually attending church. He apparently became Methodist at his marriage, attending Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas and worshipping at Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin.
Is church involvement what makes the difference in terms of the generosity of their hearts?
The argument is made that those who attend church are more generous, are more caring. Compassionate people care enough to give to organizations helping the least of those among us. Bush knows from the inside the good that churches and charities do. Cheney does not.
Granted, politics may play a role. Bush realizes that a minimal level of personal charitable giving hamstrings his appeal to faith-based support. He can hardly challenge citizenry to give personally when he doesn't practice that appeal himself.
Cheney seems indifferent to what citizenry think of his leadership, save prideful matters related to outing a CIA agent to protect his misstatement of the nuclear threat from Iraq and his embarrassing hunting accident.
Whether the explanation is church attendance or political strategy or a combination of both, Bush models charitable giving and that is a good thing. He gave more than the percentage most often cited in Protestant churches, a tithe, 10 percent of income. Kudos to President Bush.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.