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:
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.
Line 4d discloses an expenditure of $376,545 for “Other program services.” Those are described in Schedule O. We jumped to that schedule, where we see a bunch of vague verbiage, including: OTHER PROGRAMS INCLUDE THE CHAPMAN CENTER FOR CITIZEN LEADERSHIP IS A TRAINING PROGRAM FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS INTERESTED IN A CAREER IN PUBLIC AND/OR COMMUNITY SERVICE THE CENTER ENABLES YOUNG LEADERS TO CONSIDER THE FOUNDATIONAL IDEAS OF LEADERSHIP IN A FREE SOCIETY BY CONNECTING THEM WITH MENTORS AND FELLOW YOUNG LEADERS THROUGH SEMINARS, LECTURES, AND FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMS. … THE BIOETHICS PROGRAM EXAMINES A CONSTELLATION OF ISSUES SUCH AS ASSISTED SUICIDE AND EUTHANASIA, EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH, HUMAN GENETIC MANIPULATION, HUMAN CLONING,AND ANIMAL RIGHTS ISSUES THE RELIGION, LIBERTY, AND PUBLIC LIFE PROGRAM EXAMINES THE PROPER ROLE 0F RELIGION IN A FREE SOCIETY.
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.
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