Discovery Institute: Their 2012 Tax Return

The latest tax return of the Discovery Institute is now available — you can see it here: Discovery Institute Form 990 for 2012 (it’s a 44-page pdf file). We must remind you that we’re not skilled at reading these documents. All we can do is give you what we see as the highlights.

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 then their 2010 tax return, and most recently: their 2011 Tax Return.

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

2012: $4,964,321
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

Revenue is down almost $469K from last year. That’s a drop of 8.6%. However, after adding some “other” items, the grand total for 2012 was $5.1 million. The comparable figure for the year before was $5.656 million, so the grand total is down over half a million bucks. Is that the signal of a serious problem, or is it just a one-year anomaly? It’s impossible to know. They’ve had year-to-year variations in the past.

We’ve asked this question before, but it always seems relevant: After burning through all those millions, what do they have to show for it? As we’ve done in the past, we 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. Line 4b says that they spent $461,873 on their transportation work, which is significantly less than the $832K spent on transportation for the year before. The decline may be of no importance; the work may ebb and flow. Anyway, transportation studies seem to be the sort of thing a respectable think tank would do.

However, line 4a says they spent $3,218,867 (it was $2.995 million the year before) on what they call “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.” That’s more than three million bucks on what we interpret as blogging, lobbying, holding revivals at various churches, public relations, and publishing their own “peer-reviewed” material.

In addition to that, line 4c discloses $336,727 more that was spent for what looks to us like additional creationist activities, which they describe 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 technology.” That’s almost identical to the description of the earlier item, except for the ending word of “technology” instead of “science and culture.” Further, the line below that shows yet another $183,681 spent for another similar item, except that one ends with “international relations, religion, and other topics.” We assume that refers to their creationist activities in the UK and in Europe.

Adding the three creationist categories together, we get a figure of $3,739,275 that was spent on creationism– oops, intelligent design. That’s 73% of all their revenue. There’s no question that promoting creationism is the Discoveroids’ principal function. Are you surprised?

Page 7 lists their officers, directors, etc., and it gives their compensation. Looking at the Directors first, they list Stephen Meyer. He’s been described as their vice-president, but on the 2011 return he was also a Director. Last year he was paid $150K plus $16K “other.” It was the same the year before that. But this year he was paid $180K, plus $15,783 for “other.” Nice little raise!

Bruce Chapman, Chairman, was paid $135K plus $4,855 “other” compensation. Last year it was $154K plus $8K “other.” Chappy’s had a cut in pay. Last year he was both President and Chairman. This year he’s no longer the Discoveroids’ President. That title now belongs to John West, who was paid $120K, the same as last year. And it’s no surprise that Howard Ahmanson continues to be listed as one of their directors, without compensation. It’s long been known that he’s a patron of the Discovery Institute.

On page 8 they list payments to “independent contractors.” George Gilder was paid $120K for “research,” and David Berlinsky got $100K, also for “research.”

Skipping over pages of stuff we don’t understand, we come to Schedule I which is on page 29 of the pdf file. That lists grants they’ve made. They show that they gave $291,300 to “Biologic.” We assume that’s their own creation science lab — Biologic Institute.

On the next page they disclose that they paid out $239,976 for four CSC “fellowships.” Those are the Discoveroid “fellows” we hear so much about. They also paid $120K for one “technology fellowship” and they paid $10K for one “general fellowship.” No names are given for the recipients.

That’s all we found that’s worth mentioning, but there may be more information buried in the 44 pages of that form. If you find anything else, please let us know.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Discovery Institute: Their 2012 Tax Return

  1. waldteufel

    I think they have done a magnificent job of providing us with much hilarity and fun stuff to mock and ridicule. Unfortunately, they have done a lot of damage to the educational systems of Tennessee and Louisiana. Also,
    they’ve caused several more states to waste time and resources pushing back against their propaganda machine.

    Has the Discovery Institute discovered anything? No. Have they done anything to advance knowledge on any front? Not that I can tell. Have they made any positive contribution to humanity at all? *giggles and snorts*

    They have, however given nice incomes to a lamentable posse of poseurs who likely would not be able to command comparable salaries in real companies that require, you know, competence and positive results.

  2. Before I slog through it, does it say who is giving them that money?

  3. Justin asks: “does it say who is giving them that money?”

    Not really. They’re probably among the uncompensated directors, but that’s just a guess.

  4. The DI just posted that they are now a 501(C)3 tax exempt organization.

  5. Correction: Uncommon Descent is a tax free ‘organization.’

  6. docbill1351

    Not surprising. That’s Dembski’s blog and he’s been unemployed for a number of years. I suspect he gets quite a lot less than Berlinski (which must grind Dembski to no end!) and why Berlinski rates $100k for the pitiful little he does is anybody’s guess. Now poor old Dembski is taking out his begging bowl.

    Aw, I haz a cry.

  7. $100K for Berlinski? For what– having a Ph.D. in philosophy and pretending it’s in mathematics? What kind of “research” is he even capable of?

    $120K for a blithering moron like George Gilder for what? Being a right winger? He doesn’t even have a Ph.D. and couldn’t mix an acid and a base. He’s literally being paid $120K a year for being right wing, and honking “Free market… free market” into microphones at podiums.

    Jesus tapdancing Christ. I know a prof. in biophysics at Yale Med. School who made $75K a year and then only by constantly applying for research grants.

    Any real Ph.D. could get an instant 66% raise by pretending not to believe in evolution.

    Intelligent Design explained!

  8. I’d again like to offer my services to the Discovery Institute, to become their lone Darwinist and ombudsman. I will take half of what they pay Berlinski.

    Only two demands: 1) I can live wherever I like, and 2) I never have to meet Klinghoffer in person.

  9. SC: “After burning through all those millions, what do they have to show for it?”

    Plenty. Thanks to the painstaking research from the Biologic Institute we now know what the designer did instead of evolution. He/she/it/they constructed the first free-living cell ~4 billion years ago, and inserted in it all the biochemical systems necessary to produce all subsequent life with mere “microevolution” (DNA loss or minor increases incapable of generating irreducibly complex systems). They’re still working on the designer’s identity, but that’s relatively unimportant. The crucial discovery (hence their name) is that they have falsified all of the mutually-contradictory origins “theories” that would satisfy their biggest fan base (Biblical literalists).

    Now some of you regular readers might object with: “But they concluded that 17 years ago, so you can’t attribute it to the many millions they have spent since then!” And you’d be correct. But if some of you readers did not immediately think of that, then I would argue that at least some of their money was well-spent, at least in their opinion. It gets worse: I did not even bother to check the above comments to see if anyone else beat me to it. The fact that nearly no other critic ever mentions the only hint the DI ever gave us as to a potential alternate “theory” – and that it would give no comfort whatever to Biblical literalists – also tells me that they are getting what they consider an excellent return in investment.

  10. If what I said above isn’t bad enough for the DI’s biggest fan base, how about that $100K goes to a self-admitted agnostic (Berlinski)! Yes, I realize that the Morton’s Demons of their fan base are very good at filtering out inconvenient information like that, let alone of the embarrassing irreconcilable differences between literal interpretations of Genesis. But even well-filtered out information tends to produce a vague uneasiness. In fact, many fundamentalist Christian fans must be disappointed that the DI hire Jews like Klinghoffer and Medved. Granted, most fundamentalist Christians prefer Biblical outfits like AiG and RtB. But many (most?) will listen to anyone willing to bad-mouth “Darwinism.” even if they contradict each other in the process.

    So it’s mostly up to us. We could be cruel and rub all that in at every opportunity. Or we could just let the snake oil buyers and sellers revel in their fantasies, while we obsess over religion, the designer’s identity, and the least relevant person in the entire “debate,” namely Jesus.

  11. docbill1351

    Well, good for Berlinski for scamming the scammers! If he can rake in $100k from the Tooters then let me shake his hand. Well played, sir!

    Berlinski is my favorite pompous ass poseur. He has such an air of ennui, lives in Paris and comes across as quite well-read and erudite so long as you don’t listen to him talk. Then the jig is up, the curtain is pulled and the veneer breached and you realize that he’s no more than a Casey Luskin who speaks French.

    I’ll try to find the YouTube links, but there are a couple of clips out there where Berlinski gets his reckoning, once from Christopher Hitchins and the other from Genie Scott. Both times Berlinski is left standing there with a deer-in-the-headlights look and no reply because his argument has been thoroughly and completely destroyed. One of my favorites is when Berlinski says something particularly stupid and the audience breaks out in laughter. Berlinski whips around with a look of horror and surprise on his face, but it’s all an act. Wow, 100k for that. Good money if you can get it!

  12. “After burning through all those millions, what do they have to show for it?”
    This either a rhetorical question or the answer is “evidence that ID is a dead end street.”

  13. “After burning through all those millions, what do they have to show for it?”

    One would think that ID’s deep-pocket benefactors would start asking the same question…

  14. retiredcsciguy: “One would think that ID’s deep-pocket benefactors would start asking the same question…”

    I know that I’m almost alone in this, but I think their benefactors see a good return on investment. The problem is that we critics focus ~99.99% of the time on the “supply” and ~0.01% on the “demand.” On the “supply” end (putting their pseudoscience and propaganda in tax-funded science class) they have been losing miserably. But on the “demand” end (keeping the public suspicious of science and scientists) even maintaining the dismal status quo is a major accomplishment.

    Note that one prominent former benefactor, the Templeton Foundation, did abandon them after giving them the benefit of the doubt for a few years. But TF was genuinely hoping that the DI had some “science of God,” and was very disappointed to find out that it was all a scam. But the current benefactors want a scam. I can only speculate why they don’t abandon the DI in favor of, say, AiG, but – and I realize I may be giving them too much credit even as financiers of snake oil – but they simply might find AiG’s testable statements about its own “theory” too risky. Even most high school students find YEC absurd in light of the evidence, but most can be easily sold on “weaknesses” of “Darwinism,” with just a few choice misleading sound bites.