Discovery Institute: Who and What Are They?

HAVE YOU been looking for additional information about the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids)? Sure you have.

Wikipedia is often a good place to start. There we find an article titled: Discovery Institute, where we learn that the Center for Science and Culture (the group that promotes intelligent design creationism) is “the most important subsidiary of the Discovery Institute.” We take this to mean that their other think-tank activities are essentially window-dressing for what is primarily a full-blown creationism shop. The article is a veritable cornucopia of information, especially the section on funding.

But you want more. Your Curmudgeon never disappoints. The tax returns of non-profit outfits — some of them, anyway — seem to be public information. They’re readily available if one troubles to look for them.

This website, Foundation Center, should give you links to the Discovery Institute’s tax returns for 2002 through 2006. But you’ll have to enter “Discovery Institute” in the “Organization Name” block, and the state code “WA” for Washington in the next block. That’s the only information you need to enter. Make sure the “Both” button above those blocks is checked. Then hit “Find.” It should work.

But be careful — we couldn’t load the 2006 return. It caused our computer to hang, requiring a reboot. Experiment if you like, but this works for us — a direct link to the return for 2005.

We don’t know much about reading these tax forms. Maybe some of you can figure out what may be missed by a casual observer. Anyway, the 2005 tax return shows as follows:

For 2005 they received contributions of $2,784,188, plus other income (book sales, program fees, etc.), totaling almost $3 million. Salaries of “Current Officers, Directors, Trustees, and Key Employees” are on page 5 of the pdf file. Their compensation doesn’t seem opulent, but we have no clue as to whether some of these people are also drawing salaries from other organizations funded by like-minded donors. Among those listed are Stephen Meyer, a vice president, who is currently serving on a committee in Texas — get this — to evaluate that state’s science standards. See: Texas Science Education: Jumping off the Roof?

Page 7 of the pdf file, line 90b, says they had a total of 27 employees. That’s not many people, but of course it doesn’t include all their fellow travelers around the country in various school boards and other positions.

We note that on page 13 of the pdf file there’s a section called “Part VI-A Lobbying Expenditures by Electing Public Charities.” As the Discoveroids always claim to be a scientific think tank, we are surprised to see, under “Lobbying Expenditures During 4-Year Averaging Period” that for 2004 such expenses are $326,961, and for 2005 it was $343,909. Nothing is listed for 2002 and 2003, but we think (from some cryptic language in one of the final pages) that those years didn’t need to be reported on this form for technical reasons.

On page 17 of the pdf file they have a schedule of expenses, which has a couple of curious items: “Consultants” — $391,285, and “Fellowships / Research” — $569,655. What were they researching — Noah’s Ark?

The links in this post should give you a good start if you want to learn more about the Discoveroids. And here’s one additional source — an earlier article of ours: Discovery Institute — An Insider’s Tale.

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4 responses to “Discovery Institute: Who and What Are They?

  1. “…Among those listed are Stephen Meyer, a vice president, who is currently serving on a committee in Texas — get this — to evaluate that state’s science standards. “

    It figures … Does it say ‘How much’ he got paid?

    Great find BTW.

  2. Salary: $112,500, plus $10,904 for expenses.

  3. Much as I hate to correct you on this point, your analysis of “Lobbying Expenditures During 4-Year Averaging Period” is wrong. You say 2004 expenses are $326,961, and 2005 was $343,909. Those are NOT what they spent on lobbying. Those are computed maximums for what they could have spent without the IRS taxing them for it. Line 47 just below shows what they say they actually spent. $1,366 for 2005 and $6,186 for 2004 (BTW, the 2006 form say they spent $788 for lobbying). Though I find it interesting that all their lobbying “expenditures [were] to influence a legislative body (direct lobbying)”. They report no lobbying “expenditures to influence public opinion (grassroots lobbying)”. And here I thought nearly all their efforts were put towards influencing public opinion.

  4. Roger says: “Much as I hate to correct you on this point …”

    No problem. I don’t understand those forms. I’ve been hoping for someone to come along to read them properly.