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Rick Santorum: An Ordinary Guy with Average, Uncontroversial Taxes

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Rick SantorumThroughout his senatorial career and presidential run, Rick Santorum has rarely shied away from controversy, but on Wednesday, he did one of the least controversial things he's done so far in his campaign: He released his taxes. While forensic accountants will undoubtedly continue scouring the records to find mistakes or questionable choices, Santorum appears not only to have been a conscientious taxpayer, but also what he has so often claimed to be -- a fairly normal guy.

Admittedly, politics is a rich man's game, which means that the standard of normalcy is somewhat skewed. Santorum's annual income over the last four years has ranged from $649,657 to $1.1 million -- sums that place him well within the 1%. But next to the $3,142,066 that Newt Gingrich made in 2010, Santorum's earnings of $923,411 make him look like a poor cousin. And compared to the $21.6 million that Mitt Romney brought home that year, Santorum's salary looks like a rounding error.

It's a wonderful lifeThen there's the way Santorum earned his money: Most of it came from consulting, public speaking engagements and his appearances as a conservative pundit. Admittedly, a bit came from his work on various corporate boards -- a fact that will likely deal a glancing blow to the outsider status that he so often claims. Then again, corporate collusion is also a relative term: Compared to Newt Gingrich's numerous board paychecks and Mitt Romney's $7.4 million in carried interest income, Santorum looks like George Bailey.

This leads, of course, to Santorum's tax rate. After Romney released his returns, he was hit by a wave of criticism for the 13.9% that he paid to the government in 2010 -- a strikingly low percentage that was largely the product of his 15% capital gains tax rate. By comparison, Santorum's rate ranged from 25% in 2007 to just over 28%. In fact, Santorum could almost be a poster child for tax reform: In 2010, he paid roughly 28.5% on an income of $923,000. The same year, Romney paid less than half that percentage on more than 23 times as much money.

Relative to his fellow one-percenters, Santorum is doing reasonably well, but not shockingly so: according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, people in the 1% pay, on average, about 29.5% of their income in taxes. Santorum's range of 25% to 28.5% is pretty close to average.

Rick Santorum

For that matter, Santorum's story is fairly average, too. His returns of the past four years point to a steadily growing income as he has become an ever-more-prominent pundit and public speaker. And, while his income took a bit of a dive in 2010, when his public speaking energies were directed toward his then-forthcoming presidential run, there is little question that Santorum Inc. is a growth industry. In fact, given his steady advancement, it almost seems like the only thing that could stem the growth of Santorum's business would be a successful campaign for the White House.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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