Discovery Institute: Their 2011 Tax Return

Let’s take a look at the latest tax return of the Discovery Institute — i.e., the Discoveroids, described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. This stuff is rather dry and boring, but we think it’s useful to have it available.

So you can make comparisons, we discussed their 2005 return in Discovery Institute: Who and What Are They?, and then Discovery Institute: Their 2006 Tax Return, and then Discovery Institute: Their 2007 Tax Return, and then Discovery Institute Tax Returns: 2008 & 2009, and most recently: their 2010 tax return.

We’ve located their 2011 return, which you can see here: Discovery Institute Form 990 for 2011 (39-page pdf file). As we always do, we’ll remind you again that we’re not skilled at reading these documents, so we’ll just give you what we see as the highlights.

The first item of interest to us is the Discoveroids’ gross revenue. Here’s what the latest return shows, with historical information from their older returns described in our earlier posts:

2011: $5,433,226
2010: $4,323,149*
2009: $4,509,577
2008: $5,179,188
2007: $4,256,588
2006: $4,165,847
2005: $2,784,188

* That figure for 2010 has since been corrected, we assume. What had been originally reported is about $100 more than what is now shown on the 2011 return for the “prior year.”

What does that history tell you? Obviously, 2011 was their biggest year yet (of those reported), and somehow the Discoveroids continue to attract sufficient funding to keep their outfit functioning. We don’t see much of a trend. Since 2006 they seem to be holding steady at pretty much the same level of support. It’s fair to ask this, however: After burning through all those millions, what do they have to show for it? We’ll leave that as an exercise for you, dear reader.

The next item that interests us is the breakdown of their spending according to activity. That’s disclosed on page 2 of the return. They spent about $832K on their transportation work. We regard that as unobjectionable activity — the sort of thing a respectable think tank would do. No problem.

They also spent $2.995 million on “Production of public service reports, legislative testimony, articles, public conferences and debates, plus media coverage and the Institute’s own publications in the field of science and culture.” Wow — that’s three million bucks on what we interpret as blogging, lobbying, holding revivals at various churches, public relations, and publishing their own “peer-reviewed” material.

Besides that, they spent almost $365K more on “Production of public service reports, legislative testimony, articles, public conferences and debates, plus media coverage and the Institute’s own publications in the field of technology.” That’s identical to the description of the earlier item, except for the ending word of “technology” instead of “science and culture.” We’ll stick our neck out a wee bit and consider both of those two expense categories to be creationist activity. That means the Discoveroids spent nearly $3.36 million promoting their version of creationism.

Additionally, they also report “other programs” on which they spend almost $77K. On the very last page of the return that activity is described as “Production of public service reports, legislative testimony, articles, public conferences and debates, plus media coverage and the Institute’s own publications in the field of international relations, religion, and other topics.” Except for the last few words that’s the same as their other creationist activities. We assume this is creationist activity in other countries, so that increases our “total creationism” expenses to $3.437 million — which is over 63% of their total revenue.

For their 2010 return we figured that creationism expenses consumed 75% of their total revenue. Well, 75%, 63% … they’re both way over 50%, so it continues to be true that that promoting creationism is the Discoveroids’ principal function.

Page 7 lists their officers, directors, etc., and it gives their compensation. It’s no surprise that Howard Ahmanson continues to be listed as one of their directors. It’s long been known that he’s a patron of the Discovery Institute.

The Discoveroid president, Bruce Chapman, was paid $154K plus $8K “other” compensation. That’s comparable to last year.

Stephen Meyer, vice-president, was paid $150K plus $16K “other.” That’s the same as last year.

John West was paid $120K. For some reason he wasn’t listed on the 2010 return, but he also got $120K in 2009.

On page 24 they list the grants they’ve made. They gave $341K (it was $220K in 2010) to what they call “Biologic,” which we assume is their in-house research facility, and they describe its activity as “Scientific Research.”

The next page says they spend $242K on ten “CSC fellowships.” That’s the Center for Science and Culture — their creationist think tank — so the Discoveroid “fellows” get about $24K each. They also list one “technology fellowship” for $120K. No clue what that is. Also, there’s one “general fellowship” for $2K. Somebody got a token payment for something.

The tax return has a mass of other information. We don’t know what to make of it, but perhaps you do. If so, let us know.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “Discovery Institute: Their 2011 Tax Return

  1. Part I Item 1:
    To promote thoughtful analysis and effective action on local, regional, national, and international issues???

    Not aware of any local, regional, national, international work, unless it’s their worldwide creationist effort. The Wedge Document is by far much more appropriate here for a description of their real efforts.

    Part III Item 4a:
    Development of a balanced, seamless, and expanded transportation system between Washington, Oregon, and B.C. though public private partnerships and innovative financing.

    I’m from the Seattle area and I’m not familiar with any work they do here.

    Science and Culture, Technology, and Religion

    Areas of publications and emphasis? Religion, yes, the others, no.

    Schedule C Part II-A Item 1b:
    Total lobbying expenditures to influence a legislative body (direct lobbying).

    Surely they supported their members when they went before the Texas BOE and other BOE’s? They should be called out on this.

    Part II-B Item 1:
    During the year, did the filing organization attempt to influence …, state or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum, … options d, g,

    And here they surely have been in contact with numerous state legislatures/ors to promote their numerous freedom of speech, teach the controversy bills!

    $340, 950 to Biologic for “scientific research”

    And what have they accomplished? Zilch.

    Schedule O:
    All other accomplishment description:

    Production of …and the institute’s own publications in the field of international relations, religion, and other topics.

    Not aware of any publications in international relations! Religion, yes, other topics – trivial, e.g., science.

  2. SC: They also list one “technology fellowship” for $120K. No clue what that is.

    Maybe an IT guy?

  3. invertebratecounselor

    I wonder how much went to travel etc. To me the real core of thier effort is lobbying the Rick Brattin’s and Fiscus’s tottering around out there waiting for a panhandler group to sucker them into being stupid.
    The Asteroids program after all the trappings of scince are stripped away, is about effecting policy in government. The blogs and ‘roid articles, the pitiful books, etc. are window dressing for the real effort; lobby lawmakers
    with false and misinformative suggestions.
    And, karl Zimmerman, of the Texas Senate in the nomination for Cargill ,
    required her to renounce using “experts” like the ‘Roiders as advisors to the SBOE. So, they have lost that wedgie (at least openly).
    Gag, gag, choke, choke. I think they’re sinking.

  4. “After burning through all those millions, what do they have to show for it?”
    …They just tell their sponsors exactly what they want to hear.