According to “True Tales of the West Wing” on Bravo (little snippets of Presidential trivia bookending commercial breaks during repeats of “The West Wing”), JFK donated his entire Presidential salary to charity (because he was already a millionaire).
I have no reason to doubt Bravo, so I’m trusting that the fact is probably true (although it wouldn’t shock me if it was an urban legend… but Snopes didn’t have anything about it).
Does anyone know the charity (or charities) to which he donated his salary? I’m not sure how to go about finding out other than asking here (I can’t think of a google search that won’t give me a gazillion unrelated sites).
And really, Joseph Kennedy made his fortune by the time he was 30, which was 2 years before Prohibition!
Plus, it was the second generation of Kennedy’s who made the real money for the family, when they got into real estate in New York City, Chicago, etc. By then Joe Sr. had been shipped off to London as US Ambassador.
In any case, the Kennedy fortune never was anywhere near in the same league as that of the Rockefellers, Carnigies, duPonts, etc.
Back when Mort Sahl was a celebrity, the Jon Stewart of the early 1960s, he met JFK and blurted out something about his family’s obscene wealth. Kennedy asked Sahl how rich he thought Joseph P. Kennedy was, and Sahl estimated his wealth to be around 20 million (in 1962 dollars). Kennedy replied that the Rockerfeller family was worth at least 200 million: “Now that’s real money!”
There are many references to him donating his salary (as both Senator and President) to charity. I can’t find an absolutely authoritative one but many are from respectable sources and it does not seem to be a rumor or netmeme.
I don’t believe that’s possible, when the salary is set by Federal law. The computer programs produce the paychecks for the appropriate amount every pay period.
What you can do is accept the checks, and then donate the money. which people were asking about here. For example, some friends of mine were elected to the Minneapolis Library Board, but wanted to reduce their salaries during a financial crisis. What they ended uo doing was accepting their checks, but signing them over to the Library Foundation as a donation. (Which turned out to have useful tax benefits for them.)
But only a certain amount of charitable donations are deductible. Someone as rich as Kennedy would take a tax hit for receiving $450k in income and then donating it all to charity (assume this happened in 2015). Is there a way to simply refuse a salary and direct it to charity without the IRS counting it first as income and then a donation to charity?
Section 74(b) provides an exclusion from gross income of any amount received as a prize or award, if (1) such prize or award was made primarily in recognition of past achievements of the recipient in religious, charitable, scientific, educational, artistic, literary, or civic fields; (2) the recipient was selected without any action on his part to enter the contest or proceedings; and (3) the recipient is not required to render substantial future services as a condition to receiving the prize or award. Thus, such awards as the Nobel prize and the Pulitzer prize would qualify for the exclusion.
That’s the only exclusion I know of that gets around annual limits on charity deductions, but it clearly wouldn’t work in this case.
Who was the last president who wasn’t at least a millionaire (in 2015 money) when he entered office? Kennedy was known for it (in part because he grew up rich), but how much of an outlier was he, really? If he even was?
Nixon wasn’t, to my knowledge, a millionaire. Maybe inflation adjusted for today, but probably not. Clinton, if he was a millionaire, would’ve been just barely. Him and Hillary didn’t have the best personal finances as King and Queen of Arkansas. Like Nixon, Clinton has made his fortune post-Presidency (Nixon got paid very well for books and interviews after leaving office in disgrace, so much so that by the 80s he could decline Secret Service protection and fund personal security himself.)
I would think those numbers are wrong anyway. Everything I’ve seen has indicated the Kennedy fortune to have been around $1bn during this era. Kennedy himself didn’t have a vast fortune personally, but the Kennedy’s structure their family wealth as a trust that paid out to several of the living members of the family. So Kennedy’s personal income from said trust made him a rich man, and thus he didn’t need a Presidential salary.
The Rockefeller family in the 60s almost certainly was worth more than $200m. David Rockefeller (the current patriarch) is worth $3bn today. The original John Rockefeller was worth over a billion (in then dollars–hundreds of billions in today’s dollars) when he died. While he donated much of his money to charity it’s my understanding through various trusts and stakes in large companies the Rockefellers throughout the 20th century as a family have never been worth less than a billion at any point after the first John died. I know that recently retired Senator Rockefeller was born with a $25m trust fund (this was highlighted when he first ran for Governor of West Virginia in the 70s or 80s.) This would’ve been fund set up in the early 30s as he was born in 1937. That alone makes it seem very doubtful to me that the entire Rockefeller family in the 60s wasn’t worth significantly more than $200m, if babies born in the 30s were being set up with $25m trust funds.