O'Rourke highlights public service in response to criticism of charitable contributions

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeOvernight Defense: 2020 Dems rebuke Trump on Iran deal | Trump appeals ruling on male-only draft | Kudlow claims Iran sanctions won't hike oil prices Castro wants to follow Obama's lead on balancing presidency with fatherhood Poll: Buttigieg tops Harris, O'Rourke as momentum builds MORE on Tuesday responded to criticism about the relatively small amount of charitable donations reported on his tax returns, saying he contributes by serving in public office.

"I've served in public office since 2005. I do my best to contribute to the success of my community, of my state and now of my country," O'Rourke, a former El Paso City Council member who later served as a Texas congressman, said at an event at the University of Virginia.

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An attendee asked O'Rourke why he donated less to charity than her sister, a recent college graduate who makes less money than he does.

"There are ways that I do this that are measurable, and there are ways that I do this that are immeasurable. There are charities that we've donated to that we've recorded and itemized, others that we've donated to that we have not," he responded.

O'Rourke released 10 years of tax returns on Monday, which showed that he and his wife, Amy, reported $1,166 in charitable contributions in 2017 — less than 1 percent of his adjusted gross income of $366,455.

O'Rourke and his wife typically reported less than $2,000 in charitable contributions each year on their returns.

O'Rourke said it is important for presidential candidates to release their tax returns — something that President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE hasn't done.

"We would all like to ensure that every person who holds the highest position of power and public trust in this country releases his or her taxes so that we understand whether there are any real or perceived conflicts of interest, so we hold ourselves accountable so I am doing with you right now," he said.

He added that he will continue to be as transparent as he can with his financial information and answering questions.

O'Rourke isn't the only 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who has faced scrutiny for their charitable contributions.

Of all of the candidates who have released their tax returns, O'Rourke is the one who reported contributing the smallest percentage of their income on the most recent document they disclosed, but most have donated less than 5 percent of their income.

O'Rourke's tax returns also revealed that he and his wife appear to have underpaid their 2013 and 2014 taxes because they erred in deducting their medical expenses.