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The Obamas quadruple their income in one year, to $4.2 million

April 17, 2008 |  9:32 am

Wow, now we know why some of these folks are perennial candidates for president!

Campaigning for president has been very good in the money department forThe financially happy couple Michelle and Barack Obama report quadrupling their joint income between 2006 and 2007 to $4.2 million the 46-year-old Illinois senator and Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama.

With most of the media and public attention focused on Philadelphia on Wednesday and the last nationally-televised debate between Obama and his rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, before Tuesday's important Pennsylvania primary, the Obama campaign quietly released the family's tax returns.

They showed his household income with Michelle more than quadrupled in the one year between 2006 and 2007, multiplying from $991,296, which wasn't all that bad, in 2006 to a whopping $4.2 million in 2007.

Clearly, the campaign worried that numerous detailed stories about the candidate's sudden explosion in wealth could detract and...

distract from the campaign's desired populist themes of concern for working-class people afflicted by rich special interests and its biographical message about the rise of the son of a single mother who once required food stamps to feed her family.

Complicating the image of Obama wealth was his recent speech to a wealthy crowd gathered at a fundraiser in a San Francisco mansion in which he seemed to speak disparagingly about the reactions and lives of ordinary Americans in small towns experiencing adverse economic conditions.

Now, we know that Obama made a net profit from book sales of $3.9 million, according to a copy of his 2007 tax return. Included in that total was $169,706 in foreign income from book sales overseas.

Also included was $30,000 paid to Michelle by Treehouse Foods, a company that attracted some controversy for shuttering a plant and doing business with Wal-Mart.

In fact, the couple paid more in federal taxes alone last year than the total they earned during the previous 12 months -- nearly $1.4 million in federal taxes.

They also made $240,370 in charitable contributions, including $5,000 to Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, a charity of David Axelrod, Obama's chief campaign strategist. The couple's three largest gifts were $50,000 to the United Negro College Fund and $35,000 to the international relief organization CARE.

Additionally, the Obamas donated $26,270 to Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, the focus of recent controversy over the racially-tinged sermons given there for years by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and whether Obama had heard them and objected.

In late March, the Obamas posted their 2000 through 2006 tax returns on the Internet as a way to pressure Clinton to release tax documents from her post-White House years, which she has since done.

Clinton's returns showed that she too has become a Democratic candidate who's a multimillionaire. She and her husband earned $109 million from 2000 through 2006.

Clinton's campaign has now called on Obama to also release his 1997, 1998 and 1999 returns. Although he has not distributed them widely, Obama's 1998 and 1999 returns were previously provided to the Chicago Tribune. Back in 1998, the couple's total income was what now seems a comparatively meager $192,245.

In 2007, the Obama couple also contributed $6 to the federal fund that provides public financing for presidential campaigns.

Obama said last week that he remains uncertain as to whether he will participate in the program, should he win his party's nomination, despite a pledge he made last year that he would do so, if the Republican nominee did as well.

-- John McCormick and Andrew Malcolm

John McCormick writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau.