Discovery Institute: Their 2015 Tax Return

As we always do, 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 2015 (it’s a 49-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 then their 2013 Tax Return, and most recently their 2014 Tax Return.

The first item of interest on the 2015 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:

2015: $5,773,002
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

Wow — their 2015 revenue is a million more than the year before. In fact, it’s their biggest year ever. This is a surprise. Our post about their 2014 return was full of speculation that their revenue sources were drying up. Somehow, they’ve persuaded their generous patrons to contribute even more. But we have to ask the question we’ve asked before: After burning through all that money – roughly $50 million in the 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.

The next item that interests us is the breakdown of their spending according to activity. That’s disclosed in question 4 on page 2 of the return. For their three biggest programs, here’s what they spent: Line 4a shows $3,039,099 spent for their intelligent design work. Line 4b shows $306,634 spent for their “Technology and Democracy” project — whatever that is. Line 4c shows $156,947 spent for their “Center on Wealth, Poverty, and Morality — whatever that is. Promoting creationism is by far their biggest activity, and depending on what that other stuff is, it may be their only activity.

Line 4d discloses an expenditure of $289,860 for “Other program services.” Those are described in Schedule O. We jumped to that schedule, where we see this, with our bold font and punctuation:

OTHER PROGRAMS INCLUDE THE CHAPMAN CENTER FOR CITIZEN LEADERSHIP IS A TRAINING 4D 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 CASCADIA CENTER PROGRAM PROMOTES REGIONAL COOPERATION AS THE KEY TO ENSURING MOBILITY, ECONOMIC GROWTH AND A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST. 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 FREE SOCIETY. THE AMERICAN CENTER FOR TRANSFORMING EDUCATION WORKS WITH STATE LEGISLATORS, POLICY MAKERS, AND PARENTS TO PROMOTE SYSTEMIC CHANGE TO OUR NATION’S EDUCATION SYSTEM, WITH AN EMPHASIS ON PARENTAL CHOICE, IMPROVED TEACHER QUALITY, AND BETTER GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES.

If you read through that, there seems to be a lot of creationist activity in that stuff too — but it’s difficult to know.

Page 7 lists their officers, directors, etc., and it discloses their compensation. Looking at the Directors first, they list Bruce Chapman, Chairman. He’s the only Director who was paid, and it was $82,306 (last year it was $122,906). 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 a dozen other directors listed. They receive no compensation, so we assume they’re also patrons — but we really don’t know.

The officers are on the next page. President Steven Buri was paid $144,200, the same as last year. Vice President John West was paid $120,000 ($2K less than last year). Surprisingly, Stephen Meyer is listed as Secretary, with a salary of $200,000, the same as last year when he was a Director. We have no idea what the change of title means, but the money is the same.
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There’s an arkload of other information buried in that form, but we can’t look at it any more. If you find something of interest, please let us know.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Discovery Institute: Their 2015 Tax Return

  1. docbill1351

    It’s the same old, same old. The money goes right into their pockets. Yea, they fleece the credulous without a church or a bunch of snakes. No diff, though. Bunch of grifters grifting off the rich dummies. Good for them. Great business model.

  2. Lying is good business.

  3. Our Curmudgeon is astonished:

    Wow — their 2015 revenue is a million more than the year before. In fact, it’s their biggest year ever. This is a surprise.

    You shouldn’t be surprised–at least, not knowing some of what we know now.

    It’s clear that the beloved forces of political reaction were gearing up in 2015 for their stunning and closely associated triumphs in 2016 of Brexit (which recent reports now show received massive (and illegal) funding from a US billionaire) and the elevation to the Purple of your own President Orange.

    There appears a great deal of linkage in the private financing of political movements committed to climate change denial, deregulation of financial instituitions, theocracy, and the replacement of empirical science with Alternative Facts.

    So colour me unsurprised that the DI should also find their coffers runneth over from generous donations as our Age of Endarkenment descends.

  4. Ross Cameron

    Like they say:– Tax returns are just designed to fool the tax office and shareholders. Dig deeper.

  5. Every time I see creationists earning $200,000 a year, I wonder where I went wrong.

  6. Eric Lipps

    You made the mistake of holding onto your integrity. That’s guaranteed to reduce your earning potential.

  7. Ceteris Paribus

    A good bit of work for SC to parse the trail of the DI’s tax returns. But it calls to mind that examining tax returns no longer provides the the voyeuristic thrills of earlier days. Society now pretty much just goes with the reality that the bandits have won.

    In the 1948 John Huston classic movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” the hero “Dobbs” (played by Humphrey Bogart) confronts the bandit leader (Gold Hat) with a simple question but gets rebuffed:

    Dobbs: “If you’re the police, then where are your badges?”
    Gold Hat: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”

    Just replace the word “badges” with “tax returns” and we are up to date.

  8. @Paul D.’s lament, I’d add this: How many creationist officers can the world market bear? I suspect that the market is saturated as it is. Of course creationism itself is the tiniest sprout coming off the tree trunk of the racket known as organized religion. When the likes of Joel Osteen recently made the news that weekend revenue of $600,000 stolen, I’d suggest the creationist racketeers aren’t doing all that well at all.

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