During this election season however, the philanthropic differentiator of Brand USA lost some of its luster for me. Why? It occurred to me that the ultra affluent who lobby forcefully for lower taxes should, by definition, be our most philanthropic individuals and families – and the torch bearers of our giving culture. I am talking, of course, about billionaires supporting the republican ticket.**
From what I can tell however, they are not.
Here’s how I came to this conclusion: I simply compared a list of the election's biggest republican billionaire supporters with the list of billionaires who have signed the Giving Pledge http://givingpledge.org/
Apart from Harold Simmons and Julian Robertson, there is no further overlap between taxation averse billionaires supporting the Romney ticket and philanthropic billionaires joining The Giving Pledge – a campaign thus far joined by 81 of the 400 richest Americans, pledging to give 50% or more of their wealth to charity during their lifetime.
Now I’m no statistician, but when in a total population of just 400 people (The Forbes 400) a group of about 20% (81 people) commits publicly to meaningful philanthropy; and a separate group of about 7% (29 people) spends well over $200MM this election to limit their tax burden; and when only one half of one percent (just 2 out of 400 people) belong to both groups, i.e. committed philanthropists who also support the republican ticket, then the “lower taxes = more philanthropy” argument rings mighty hollow.
Of course, you may do with your money as you please. But from a brand perspective, this looks really, really bad.
So, my suggestion to the other 27 billionaires bankrolling the republican campaign (that means you, Messrs. Adelson, Rowling and Koch) is to join Simmons and Robertson, put your money where our brand is and publicly align your wealth with it. And the easiest way to do this is by joining the Giving Pledge, for starters.
**Disclaimer: I have no desire to enter into a political discussion regarding the merits of republican, democratic, libertarian, green or other political ideologies. Heck, I don’t know where I stand most of the time given that I’ve embraced and rejected notions of all. Just pointing out the misalignment of Brand USA with respect to philanthropy, and suggesting a remedy that will restore its luster. Who knows, refilling the community chest from all sides of the political spectrum should prove to be a catalyst for a faster recovery, irrespective of who’s running the country.