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Kerry's charity gap

Weld contributes far more money to the needy

'Can you tell us, from your heart, why you think people are poor?'' The question was asked during the recent television debate between Sen. John Kerry and Gov. William Weld.

This was Kerry's reply:

''As I have gone around this state and been privileged to sit in somebody's kitchen and listen to them talk about their problems, what I learn is that people are poor because the deck is really stacked against them. Because people like the governor fight even raising the minimum wage.. . . Because they don't get the breaks that a lot of wealthy people in this country get. [Because] of the Washington of Newt Gingrich and the Republicans that I am fighting -- a Washington that will cut $270 billion of Medicare so they can give a $245 billion tax break, most of which goes to people who are wealthy. And that's what stacks the odds against people, and that's what's wrong.''

Pop-up RELATED GRAPHIC: The comparison

Like many Democrats, Kerry excels at compassion rhetoric. His campaign literature abounds with references to all the good causes he supports: assistance for the elderly, jobs for at-risk teen-agers, treatment for sick veterans, aid to struggling fishermen, even baseball for handicapped kids. When he formally announced for reelection last month, he described the campaign as a clash between those who advocate ''turning against each other and those who still believe we can triumph by turning to each other.''

But is a laundry list of the government programs Kerry endorses really the best test of his compassion? Does Weld's position on taxes or the minimum wage truly demonstrate that he is heartless toward the unfortunate? How should voters decide which candidate genuinely believes in ''turning to each other'' -- and which candidate doesn't?

One measure of a man's character is the way he spends his money. Since Kerry and Weld both make a practice of releasing their tax returns, it is possible for us to draw some conclusions about each man's personal financial priorities.

Last year, Weld (and his wife) reported adjusted gross income of $110,418. Of that total, the Welds gave $24,010 -- almost 22 percent -- to charity. They gave to the United Way and the Episcopal Church, to Rosie's Place and Globe Santa, to Harvard College and Mt. Auburn Hospital, to Catholic Charities and the Keene Valley Library, to the Salvation Army and the Special Olympics. All told, they contributed to nearly three dozen charitable institutions great and small.

Kerry's income in 1995 was somewhat higher than Weld's -- $126,179. But the amount he reported giving to charity was considerably lower. He didn't give anything. Zero dollars, zero cents.

Zero compassion?

1995 was not atypical. One year earlier, the governor made $106,656, and gave away 24 percent to the worthy and the needy. The senator made $127,884 and gave away 1.6 percent. In 1993, when Kerry's income topped $130,000, his reported gifts to charity added up to $175. The Welds, who made $162,315 that year, donated $28,194.   Continued...

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