Discovery Institute: Their 2014 Tax Return

Every time we post one of these, we warn you that your Curmudgeon has neither the skill nor enthusiasm needed for reading tax returns. All we can do is give you what we see as the highlights. Therefore, don’t rely on our interpretation — you should reach your own opinions. With that disclaimer, we bring you the thrilling news that the latest tax return of the Discovery Institute is now available — you can see it here: Discovery Institute Form 990 for 2014 (it’s a 46-page pdf file).

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 then their 2011 Tax Return, and then their 2012 Tax Return, and most recently their 2013 Tax Return.

The first item of interest on the 2014 tax return is the Discoveroids’ gross revenue — from “contributions and grants,” ignoring revenue from relatively trivial items like investment income. Here’s what the latest return shows, with historical information from their older returns described in our earlier posts:

2014: $4,698,817
2013: $3,876,700
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

The 2014 return shows a whopping increase of $822,177 from the previous year! That’s a surprise. Their revenue had been decreasing since 2011, which, as far as we know, was their biggest year ever. We were expecting the downward trend to continue because of some notable developments at the end of last year. As you recall, in November of 2015 we wrote William Dembski Is “Moving On”, and our last post about the Discoveroids in 2015 was Casey Luskin Leaves the Discovery Institute. At the start of this year we wrote Is the Discovery Institute Dying?

We assumed that the yearly decline we were witnessing was the result of decreased funding from their generous patrons, due to the dismal failure of the Discoveroids’ attempts to promote their Academic Freedom bills, which have been enacted only in Louisiana and Tennessee, and also because a total failure to achieve any of the goals outlined in their Wedge strategy, which we described in What is the “Wedge Document”?

If there has been a significant fall in their revenue, it won’t show up until they file their tax return for 2015. But we can’t leave the subject of gross revenue without asking a familiar question: After burning through all that money – $44 million in the 10 years we’ve displayed above — what do the Discoveroids have to show for it? As in the past, we leave that as an exercise for you, dear reader.

Let’s continue with what’s revealed in the 2014 return. 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 $318,555 on their transportation work — the sort of thing a respectable think tank would do. It’s about 10% more that last year’s $296,961, but significantly less than the $461,873 spent on transportation for 2012. The year before that they spent $832K on transportation. Whether there’s any trend here isn’t immediately apparent, but transportation is trivial compared to what they spend on promoting creationism. Note that line 4a says they spent $3,205,253 on the Center for Science and Culture (the CSC) — more than ten times what they spend on transportation. The CSC is their creationism “think tank,” and it’s obviously the principal function of the Discovery Institute.


What’s all that? We don’t know, but it sounds like a Discoveroid recruiting and training program. If so, it increases the percentage of Discoveroid funding for their creationist activities. Even if we’re wrong about that, there’s still no doubt that promoting creationism is the Discoveroids’ primary purpose.

Page 7 lists their officers, directors, etc., and it discloses their compensation. Looking at the Directors first, they list Stephen Meyer. This year he was paid $200,000, plus $15,949 “other compensation,” essentially the same as last year. In 2012 he was paid $180K, plus $15,783 for “other.” The year before that he was paid $150K plus $16K “other.”

Bruce Chapman, Chairman, was paid $122,906, and nothing for “other.” Last year it was $133,646, plus $5,950 “other” compensation. The year before (2012) it was $135K plus $4,855 “other,” and in 2011 it was $154K plus $8K “other.” Chappy’s pay keeps getting cut.

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. There are about ten other directors listed. They receive no compensation so we assume they’re also patrons, but we really don’t know.

No one else on the list of officers or directors received anything, except someone named Steven Buri. He’s listed as President, and he was paid $144,200. It’s noteworthy that John West no longer appears as a director, but he’s listed on the next page as Vice President. He was paid $120,000.

Now we’re going to skip a lot of pages until we get to the schedules attached to the tax return. Schedule I on page 36 lists the grants they’ve made. They gave $324,500 to “Biologic.” It was $285,680 on the 2013 return, and $291,300 the year before. We assume that’s their own creation science lab — Biologic Institute.

On the next page they disclose that they paid $309,159 for 9 CSC “fellowships.” That’s an average of $34K each. The return for 2013 showed that they paid $295,531 for 7 CSC “fellowships,” an average of $42K each. Those are the Discoveroid “fellows” we hear so much about. Also this year they paid $93,000 for something they call a “technology fellowship” (they paid the same thing for one of those the year before). In addition to that, they paid $79,050 for 2 WPM fellowships (whatever they are), and $279,80 for 2 “other” fellowships.

There must be other information buried in the 46 pages of that form, but we can’t look at it any more. If you find something of interest, please let us know.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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42 responses to “Discovery Institute: Their 2014 Tax Return

  1. Mike Elzinga

    I wonder if this might be a leading indicator of how these sectarians think the political winds will blow in the 2016 elections.

    There has been a lot of churning behind the scenes of the sectarian social concervative movement in recent years. Not only has the gay marriage thing got them riled up, they are still trying to get evolution out of the curriculum because of “all the evils – including homosexuality – it creates in the world.”

    That tax return was in 2014; now they got Trump. We seem to be living in “interesting times.”

  2. Golly! Where can apply for a job as one of the DI’s paid directors?

  3. craigshearer

    “principal function” not “principle function”

  4. Thanks, craigshearer. It’s fixed now.

  5. It’s interesting to me that an organization which receives $4.7M in revenue, and purports to be about the “science” of ID, grants only $3.2K to Biologic for “scientific research.” That’s 6.9%.

    It illustrates the importance of actual scientific research to the DI, as if any further evidence was needed.

  6. @Ed

    only $3.2K to Biologic for “scientific research.” That’s 6.9%.

    Well, there’s a limit to the number of green screens they can use.

  7. Ed, that’s $324K.

  8. $324K / $4.7M = 6.9%

  9. only $3.2K to Biologic for “scientific research.” That’s 6.9%.
    Which is barely half the $602K paid to the 4 chief officers. Why do they need a director, a chairman, a president and a vice president? Why not just a president and an underpaid administrative assistant to do the actual work? Can you say “cash cow?”

  10. “what do the Discoveroids have to show for it? [privately donated money as opposed to taxpayer funded Darwin propoganda]”
    You and every orher malcontent can’t stop talking about DI and ID. It remains front and center in your consciences and will be for a long time. I’d say that was money well spent.

  11. All the creationists in the world can never stop talking about evolution.

    Why don’t they once in a while talk about an alternative?

  12. michaelfugate

    Hey Kev C, regarding ID – who, when, where, what and why? Get back to us when you have evidence for each. I doubt I need to wait up.

  13. That 324k probably includes Douglas axe’s and green screen grangers (sp?) large salaries. As well as the support staff and office rent.

    Leaving next to nothing for actual research.

    My guess is that the biological institute is nothing but a secondary office for there staff and fellows. After all ganger was billed as a researcher but than magically became Casey luskins sucessor.

  14. Eric Lipps

    KevinC | 29-May-2016 at 6:17 pm |

    “what do the Discoveroids have to show for it? [privately donated money as opposed to taxpayer funded Darwin propoganda]”
    You and every orher malcontent can’t stop talking about DI and ID. It remains front and center in your consciences and will be for a long time. I’d say that was money well spent.

    To paraphrase Mae West, conscience has nothing to do with it. Rather, it’s concern that these ideas may be allowed to poison public school science teaching.

    I’m sure that if there were some group out there with millions of dollars trying to force the teaching of astrology in science classes, you’d be upset. This is essentially the same thing, except that there isn’t any such well-funded and politically connected movement on behalf of astrology.

  15. As to the revenue increase. Is this the time period when they hired the religious fund raiser and abandoned all pretenses of being a secular theory and started promoting their religious views?

    Legislatively and scientifically they continue to fail. But they have expanded their funding base by catering to individual religious donations and anti-global warming activism.

  16. @michaelfugate
    First of all, let’s hear about who, what, where, when, why and how!
    Only then can we begin to talk about evidence.

  17. @KevinC






    crank pseudoscience

  18. Curmy states that he supposes the directors are patrons but really doesn’t know. I started googling down the list and didn’t have to get too far to see the trend – wealthy, Seattle-affiliated, Republican [sorry SC], and Christian. Also found a gem at the vast right wing wiki So I believe that Curmy’s supposition is very likely.

  19. @SC: Yep, one of my many typos. But the percentage was based on the actual figures, not the typing. 🙂

  20. docbill1351

    “principal function” not “principle function”

    Exactly! We all know the Tooters don’t have any principles.

  21. Off-topic–except that it does touch on the issue of Creationists and money, this time in the matter of Creationist voyeur David McConaghie: Voyeuristic ex-DUP adviser’s defence cost public purse £5,673

    Thats about $8,735…

  22. Hey michaelfugate, ID never claimed to know who, when, where, and why. Inform yourself and you won’t be waiting so long.

    @realthog: thanks for the corrections. Not easy typing on a smartphone and under the influence.

  23. I think this non-sequitur cartoon of 5/30 sums it all up:

  24. Dave Luckett

    No, ID never claimed that. When we remove those pesky details, what we have is a suggestion (not a theory, nor a hypothesis – both of those require evidence – nor even a conjecture, which is required to be specific) that an unknown entity did an unknown thing at an unknown time and place for an unknown purpose.

    Very profound.

  25. Dave Luckett indicates that ID is

    a suggestion (not a theory, nor a hypothesis – both of those require evidence – nor even a conjecture, which is required to be specific)

    I think the DI now states that ID is an intuition, a powerful bit of mental jiggery-pokery that allows one to confidently state, “X is true because I wish X to be true!”

  26. michaelfugate

    Hey KevC, then it isn’t science and shouldn’t be taught in schools, no? Which is the point – ID claims to be something when it is nothing. If you can’t even tell us one thing about “design” or “designer”, then ID is useless. How could you possibly tout something with zero predictive power as useful.

  27. docbill1351

    Wasn’t it the Disco Tute’s fellow mathemagician and Second Law of Thermodagnabbits, Grandville Sewer, who said it best: ID is a conjecture that an unknown designer, at an unknown time, using unknown methods designed everything – well, if you squint.

  28. My own take on ID is that it is an advertising campaign – a negative advertising campaign – a negative political advertising campaign.
    “There is a better explanation other than naturalistic evolution.”
    But don’t describe what that better explanation is. Nobody has even suggested an explanation for the variety of life which doesn’t make reference to evolution.
    And even at that, “design” is not enough to account for anything. See, for example, Wikipedia “Unfinished building#Construction never started”.

  29. michaelfugate

    It is also Christian apologetics; they will use any tactic to keep people believing in a changing landscape. Now they are marketing “intuition/common sense” as obviously no one was buying the science angle.

    ID 2.0 – reformulated – now with twice as much intuition. Design has never seemed more real.

  30. docbill1351

    Nearly 20 years and $44 million later how close are the Tooters to achieving their governing goals as stated in the venerable Wedge Document (marked Top Secret) of “To defeat scientific materialism and it’s destructive moral, cultural and political legacies” and “To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”

    Seems to me they got a bunch of nothing save a single “creationist law” in arguably one of the dumbest states in the union that was already teaching creationism in public schools and the source of one of the Supreme Court’s greatest smackdowns – Edwards vs Aguillard.

    Their only real “theorist,” and I use the term lightly, Dr. Dr. Billy “Single Malt” Dumbski took a hike after years of smoke but no fire, and their Numero Uno fast talking Attack Gerbil up and quit, too.

    But, who knows! Maybe Myers will recycle his thesis for a fifth time with a “new” book just in time for Christmas – Darwin Doubts a Who.

  31. Megalonyx:
    “…DI now states that ID is an intuition…”

    Ah, yes! ID = Intuitive Deception.

  32. Hey MikeF, DI isn’t advocating that ID be taught in schools. Do you only oppose strawmen? But keep talking about it. That’s exactly what they want you to do. 🙂

  33. docbill1351

    Creationist troll K-C sputters:

    Hey MikeF, DI isn’t advocating that ID be taught in schools.

    The exact wording, my imprecise little troll, is that the DI officially does not advocate mandating the teaching of ID in schools. See that word there: mandate? It’s the DI’s special word. They use it all the time.

    That’s why the DI updated their “The Theory of Intelligent Design: Educator’s Briefing Packet” to take into account the Kitzmiller decision which they urge educators to simply ignore. But they don’t advocate anything. They just urge, support and provide guidance. Oh, wait, that’s advocating, isn’t it?

    From the mouths of little creationist babes comes this gem right there in the Introduction:

    For the record, we do not propose that intelligent design be mandated in public schools, which is why we strongly opposed the school district policy at issue in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. However, if you voluntarily choose to raise the issue of intelligent design in your classroom…

    Ironically, they only opposed the policy issue in Dover after the board took the DI’s information, including Version 1.0 of their Educator’s Packet and discussed things with the DI’s lawyer. But, the DI scattered like cockroaches when actual deal went down.

    “Hey, Billy, here’s a box of matches. Why don’t you go light that dumpster on fire. It will be cool! I’ll stand here and watch.”

  34. michaelfugate

    Poor KevC. Lack of creativity is a hallmark of creationists – ironic isn’t it

  35. “the DI officially does not advocate mandating the teaching of ID in schools”
    So no advocacy of a “mandate” which is what keeps everyone on your side up at night. Thank you for that Bill. Keep on fighting those giant windmills.

    As for advocating voluntarily raising the issue? Well there’s nothing wrong with a “be my guest” attitude; now is there? Wasn’t Dover supposed to be the end of the Discovery Institute and why do you continue to live in the past?

  36. As for advocating voluntarily raising the issue? Well there’s nothing wrong with a “be my guest” attitude; now is there?

    Would you make the same argument if the topic were Satanism?

    No, I’m not saying that Creationism and Satanism are equivalent: I’m using the ad absurdum approach to try to demonstrate the flaw in your “nothing wrong with a” argument.

    why do you continue to live in the past?

    A very odd accusation from someone promoting Creationism.

  37. KevinC is a pot calling the kettle black:

    why do you continue to live in the past?

    The entire programme of the DI–as explicitly stated in their ‘Wedge’ document–is nothing more than an utterly reactionary dream of return to the brutal world that existed before the Enlightenment.

    The DI is pursuing a set of specific and obnoxious political ideals which have been discredited for centuries. The pre-Enlightenment past is not only where the DI live, but to whence they would drag us all had they the power so to do–which (mercifully, and in no small measure due to the vigilance of rational folks such as the writer and the followers of this present blog) they do not.

  38. Arrrgh! Them ole HTML tag thingies are playing me false again!

    I humbly beseech the Great Invisible Hand of Correction to mercifully reach out and &c &c

    [*Voice from above*] It is done!

  39. docbill1351

    Kev C-
    I’m impressed, really, I am, as English must be your third language. Bravo! Don’t worry, keep at it and comprehension will come.

    Wasn’t Dover supposed to be the end of the Discovery Institute

    No, of course not. You miss the point and there it is right on top of your head! We’re still dealing with young earth creationists and faith healers and snake handlers in 2016, so the notion that the Disco Tute is going to suddenly evaporate is foolish. There are enough people donating to the “cause” to keep Meyers and Co. in yummy swill as long as they like. Besides, the DI itself has all but given up on ID. The Wedge Strategy is in tatters, all the “theorists” have scattered and they’ve revealed themselves to be what we knew all along – bog standard creationists.

    What Dover did was to put the kibosh on the notion that ID is science and could be taught in the classroom. ID creationism, it’s full name, is, as the name states, creationism. Not science. Religious. Not science. That came down like the BanHammer on the Disco Tute and wiped out their public school outreach. Since then the Tooters have focused on church groups and home schoolers. Even in Louisiana where teaching creationism is “legal” (guess what, it’s not) ID is given nary a mention. Nope, in Louisiana it’s all praise the Lord and pass the Ark.

    So, you’re wrong Kev C- about everything which is a passing grade, in your case a C- and par for the course.

  40. Like I said, money well spent.

    C- I get it. Ingeniously clever. You must have a Ph.d or something. michaelfulgate can’t accuse you of a lack of creativity. No siree.

  41. michaelfugate

    Well you flunked spelling – now if an ID proponent can tell us one thing was not intelligently designed and one thing that was intelligently designed and how he or she figured it out….

  42. One category of things which are intelligently designed: Anything which does not exist. A centaur, a “Penrose triangle”, the Superconducting Supercollider. (It takes more than design to produce something.)

    On the other hand, an orthodox monotheist would tell us that everything which does exist is created – and thus, presumably, is designed.