News and analysis
August 28, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Nonprofit World

Mitt Romney, a businessman and former governor of Massachusetts, is the GOP candidate for president. Here's a look at his involvement with nonprofits and his positions on issues that affect charities and foundations.


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Nonprofit activities

Was chief executive of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Runs the Tyler Charitable Foundation with his wife, Ann. It had $10-million in assets in 2010 (PDF). Served on the national board of City Year, a nonprofit youth corps, from 1995 to 1999. Served on the board of the Points of Light Foundation, which incorporated the National Volunteer Center—an organization headed for many years by his father, George—from 1995 to 2001.

Charitable giving. Mr. Romney and his wife, Ann, contributed $4-million to charity in 2011, about 19 percent of their adjusted gross income. In 2010, they gave almost $3-million, 14 percent of their  income.

Record as governor of Massachusetts, 2003-7

Health care. Oversaw the crafting of a Massachusetts health-care law that is considered a model for the new federal law. It requires most residents to buy insurance and offers subsidies or free coverage to those who can’t afford it.

National service. Along with Democratic Gov. Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania, he led an effort to persuade governors to sign a 2003 letter to Congress and President George W. Bush requesting emergency aid for AmeriCorps, the national-service program, which was then in the midst of a financial crisis. The letter, signed by 43 governors, said a proposed cut in AmeriCorps members  "could seriously affect communities and individuals" who rely on the program for help.

Religious groups. Appointed his wife, Ann Romney, to serve as an unpaid liaison to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which was set up to help funnel federal aid to religious organizations for social services.

Positions on taxes and spending

Taxes. Would cut federal income-tax rates by 20 percent, bringing the top rate down from 35 percent to 28 percent. Would limit tax deductions and exemptions for high-income people. Would work with Congress to determine how to set those limits, but "we want to maintain provisions that encourage housing, charitable contributions, and health care." Would end the estate tax.

Spending. Would cut non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent across the board and would limit federal spending to 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2016. Budget would be cut by $500-billion a year in 2016, assuming "robust economic recovery." Would turn money for federal job-retraining programs into block-grant programs, providing lump sums to states. Would turn Medicaid into a block-grant program and cap spending, with the budget increasing each year by the consumer price index plus 1 percent.

"For every government-spending proposal, I will ask the following question: 'Is this program so important that it is worth borrowing more money from China to pay for it?'”

Federal aid to abortion providers. Would end federal spending on any group like Planned Parenthood that "primarily performs abortions or offers abortion-related services." The ban would cover Title X family-planning money. Refused to sign a "pro-life pledge" drafted by the Susan B. Anthony List, however, because it called for an end to federal spending on any group with "affiliates that perform or fund abortion." Said that was "overly broad" since it would affect "thousands of hospitals across America."

Would reinstate the "Mexico City Policy" barring nonprofits that receive U.S. government aid from performing or promoting abortion services in other countries. Would end U.S. spending on any United Nations or other foreign-assistance program that promotes or performs abortions.

Arts and culture. Would seek “deep reductions” or end federal spending for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Public Broadcasting System. Would tell PBS to seek advertising in place of government subsidies, saying: “We’re not going to kill Big Bird, but Big Bird is going to have advertisements.” 

International aid. Said he could not commit to spending as much money on Pepfar  (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) as President George W. Bush did.  “I’m very reluctant to borrow lots more money to be able to do wonderful things, if those things can be done by people making charitable contributions or by other countries that are wealthy.”

Said the U.S. is spending “more in foreign aid than we ought to be spending” and it doesn’t make sense to “ borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid. We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people that are taking that humanitarian aid today.”

Poverty. Said the free-enterprise system "has helped lift more people out of poverty across the globe than any government program."

Vice-presidential pick

Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin

As chairman of the House Budget Committee, he drafted budgets in 2011 and 2012 that would slash federal spending and overhaul safety-net programs like Medicaid and food stamps. Mr. Romney has expressed support for those budgets.

Charitable giving. Mr. Ryan and his wife, Janna, contributed $12,991 to charity in 2011, about 4 percent of their adjusted gross income. In 2010, they gave $2,600, or 1.2 percent of income.

Spouse's charitable activities

Ann Romney served on the board of the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society from 2004 to 2010 (though ended her active role in 2008 when her husband decided to run for president). Served on the boards of the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund (2004 to 2007); Families First Parenting Programs (1998 to 2003), and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (1996 to 2009; was co-chair of the faith and action committee). Was a member of the U.S. advisory board of Right to Play, formerly Olympic Aid, and hosted its inaugural meeting in 2004; still an adviser to the organization. Was a volunteer instructor at Mother Caroline Academy and Education Center, a school for girls from low-income families (dates unavailable).

Maria Di Mento contributed to this article.

Send an e-mail to Suzanne Perry.