Thursday, February 16, 2012

The dead are allowed to vote - on the Board of Directors of a denialist, tax-supported charity

John Mashey has his latest opus up, on the malfeasance of various denialist organizations that should be investigated for violations of their IRS 501 c/3 tax-deductible charity status.  I greatly enjoyed assisting him a bit with some of the research on this.  John's work is separate from the leak of secret documents from one of those groups, the Heartland Institute.

Please go read what John has to say, but the summary is that Fred Singer's Science and Environmental Policy Project, the Heartland Institute, and possibly others have given more than sufficient grounds for IRS agents and/or state Attorney General offices charged with supervising charities to start using some subpoena power.  They're supposed to be educational, but are the opposite.  In SEPP's case, they appear to have a non-functioning board, including a chairman who continued to supervise Singer two years after the chairman had died.  They sign affidavits saying they're not lobbying when they sure appear to be doing so.  And money flows are incredibly weird, with assets disappearing and sometimes reappearing in strange ways.

I'll just pull out two examples:  first, on page 23, rows A36 and A37 - over $100,000 in assets mysteriously disappears between the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004.  Must've been quite a New Year's Eve party, but I think IRS might want to check the bank statements.  Second is on page 181 where they use 6-degree polynomial overfitting to pretend there's a decline in temperature.  Statistical nonsense like this is possibly the best arguments for why Heartland et al. aren't educational for 501 c/3 purposes, because there's no counterargument that they're right.  There's no minority opinion, no Richard Lindzen-style stats professor out there who would defend that analysis.  The fact that it's delivered to an unsophisticated audience who won't figure it out on their own magnifies the problem.  The likelihood that whoever created the analysis is also sophisticated enough to know it's wrong means it's an intentional attempt to reduce public understanding of climate.  They're not just non-educational, they're anti-educational.

If mutual fund managers issued a prospectus using a 6-degree fit to show they're beating the market, they could go to jail.  Heartland wants a tax break for doing the same thing.


David B. Benson said...

Yes, John Mashey is very good.

But how does one go about removing the tax exempt status from Heartland?

Martin Vermeer said...

The degree six polynomial is remarkable, yes. But, really, it's so much simpler than that. Just have a look at section Y.1 about the satellite record.

As a graphic example of lying through your teeth -- widely construed as not an educational activity -- it's hard to beat ignoring for years on end pertinent corrections made by folks supposedly on your side.

amoeba said...

I'm rather hoping that the excrement will soon be fed through the large fan over at SEPP.

Singer's false claims about climate & tobacco might fool some, but false declarations about his tax returns won't go down well with the IRS.

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny says:

I'm not defending Singer: but I'm not sure his dead chairman is enough for much action by the IRS. I mean, the poor old man just didn't notice the corpse was reeking when it attended meetings of the board. This has been known for some time anyway. I can consult with a tax preparer friend on this question, but she's kinda busy just now.

Anonymous said...

As Mrs. Singer wears the lobbying pants in this K Street family, their joint returns might be worth a gander.

Anonymous said...

We can expect DJustice Scalia and his Supremes to take up this question. The tricky part of the libretto will be to ensure only dead people formerly sporting the correct ideology will be confirmed as having the franchise.

John Mashey said...

BTW, Brian helped with some key pointers and saved me a lot of time.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.

@John Mashey

"It ran “fake science” conferences, paying for government staff attendance. It sent money to foreign non-charity advocacy groups, sent anti-science handbooks to school boards and urged parents to complain. It has been criticized in Nature and Science."

Hmmm. This sounds exactly like the IPCC.

Runs fake science conferences. Check

Pays for gov't staff attendance. Check

Sends money to foreign activist groups. Check

Sends anti-science books to schools. Check

Has been criticized by Nature and Science. What a surprise, considering the editors for those journals brown nose Gavin Schmidt and Kevin Trenbirth daily.

Your boy Michael Mann is going down hard Mashey, Hopefully, you will be next.

Jim Eager said...

Eli, hasn't the Cad stepped over the too-stupid-to-post threshold with this one?

Anonymous said...

Rabett Run, Fonzi and sharks.

Celery Eater

rumleyfips said...

Jim Eager:

Ironic isn't it. The Cadburys ( and other chocolate manufacturers) were Quakers who tried to provide decent housing good food, adequate wages, health care and education for their workers. In other words enlightened.

J. Cadbury Nutbar , while certifiable, should be allowed to rant. His words condem him.

Rabbits are not scared of nutbars.

John McManus

Former Skeptic said...


No, no, goodness gracious, no. Cadbury should be allowed to post. Like Tom Fuller, his constant stream of brainfarts elicit much mirth.

Brian said...

Jim - it's my post, so I guess my moderating duties.

Jay's statement about Mashey going down is extremely stupid but I don't interpret it as a threat or pattern of harassment. If it were, then I'd take action. Maybe it helps that I know John Mashey personally and expect his reaction would be to laugh at it.

As for denialist stupidity in general, as long as it doesn't overrun a comment thread, I tend to ignore it.

Jim Eager said...

Hey, it's your party, I'm just here for the carrots.

Steve Bloom said...

Brian, i have had a thought, which is, if HI's version of events is accurate, isn't there some sort of crime here? Federal wire fraud maybe? I don't expect you to comment on IL law, but would this have violated any CA law of which you're aware?

Snapple said...

Maybe Heartland leaked these documents themselves.

Dr. Mashey got two little tips from me.

I don't think Dr. Mashey or Dr. Mann are going down hard. They are doing just great!

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny says:

Back to the point of taxes, which Cad so effectively diverted you-all from, can't anyone submit a notice to the IRS and whatever proof they have of false returns? I think they'll get paid a fraction of the underpayment.
Also one can complain to one's Democratic congressman of a 'non-profit' indulging in campaigns and lobbying.

EliRabett said...

Yes and you get a fair percentage of the recovery if any. The catch is the IRS decides whether it is worth going after. The rules are here

Brian said...

Steve B - not sure about legal violations. I believe doing something like this to expose HI legal violations could be okay under what's known as a "necessity" defense, but I think it's tricky. I'm sure lawyers are being consulted.

My free legal advice is that it is inadvisable under most circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Ah, color me stoopid!

The plot thickens!

Both history and the top management at KPMG well know, the IRS is never amused by those fools, who run and or are engaged in tax evasion schemes.

IRS link :,,id=146999,00.html

As George W Bush Jr., would say :-