Photograph by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints via Getty Images.
It's no surprise that Mitt Romney regularly contributes to the Mormon church. In fact, as a Mormon, he's supposed to tithe 10 percent of his earnings. Given what we know about his wealth (he's worth an estimated $250 million), that pretty much automatically makes him one of their major donors.
But we're now learning more about how Romney gives and, more importantly, how much, courtesy of a new report from ABC News, which did some digging into the topic.
The news network reports that Romney's family charity, the Tyler Foundation, gave more than $4 million to the church in the past five years. But that's only part of the story: He has also donated stocks from some of the most lucrative holdings of Bain Capital, providing the church with millions of dollars worth of stock.
As part of just one Bain transaction in 2008, involving its investment in Burger King Holdings, filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveal that an unnamed Bain partner donated 65,326 shares of Burger King stock to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holdings then worth nearly $1.9 million.
Because Romney's campaign will only confirm that Romney is the one behind some of the stock transactions, but not which specific ones, the findings provide little concrete information on exactly how much he's given to the church through Bain. And, as has been increasingly noted since Monday night's debate, we don't know very much at all about his giving habits because he has never released his tax returns. The campaign has, however, asserted that any stocks Romney has donated through Bain were his personal stocks.
The campaign adds that other donations through Bain to the LDS could have come from other Mormon members of staff. So how common is it for Mormons to donate stocks to the church? Joanna Brooks, a columnist at Religion Dispatches, told The Slatest that most Mormons tithe with a monthly check, but "it is not uncommon for high net worth members of the Church to donate stock in lieu of cash." Tithing, she adds, is a "benchmark of orthodoxy" in the Mormon faith and required in order to attend services in the Temple.
Although the story is most significant for its insight into the giving habits of Romney, it is additionally evocative because it combines two subjects the candidate has been apparently trying to avoid on the campaign trail: the specifics of his time at Bain Capital and his Mormon faith.