Thursday, August 23, 2007

The answers about Answers in Genesis-part 1

Anyway, if you want a good angle, stop treating this as a matter of a religious organization making a brave effort against the forces of godless science. It's not. It's an exceptionally lucrative business organization profiting off the ignorance of large numbers of people making a major push to increase their influence and income.
Answers in Genesis (AiG) is perhaps the best-known of the creationist organizations in the US. It maintains a huge and attractively-designed website, sells an entire library of creationist materials, and runs the "Creation Museum" in Petersburg, KY. AiG is registered with the IRS as a 501c3 tax-exempt charity and pulled in over 13 million dollars in revenue in fiscal year 2005-2006. Of that 13 million, almost six million was paid out in salaries to board members and employees.

Charity Navigator, one of the most well-respected evaluators of charities, gives AiG 2 out of 4 possible stars, a rating that equals "Needs Improvement." For 2006, AiG performed worse than over 70% of other charities in how much it spent on programs and services, and its program expense growth was greater than its primary revenue growth, resulting in a net negative working capital ratio. AIG's rating has dropped steadily for the last 3 years, even as it has taken in more and more money.

Ministry Watch, which reviews only Christian ministries, although it names AiG one of its favorite ministries on the strngth of its evangelical fervor, rates AiG 405th of 430 organizations in financial efficiency.

So where is the money coming from, and where is it going? As a 501c3, AIG files Form 990 with the IRS every year. I looked at the data from 2002-2006.

Several interesting points can be made. AiG's chief staff are making an extremely comfortable living from their "ministry." Here are the highest-paid staffers and board members for 2006:

Ken Ham-President/CEO $124,615
Dale Mason- Vice President $114,301
John Pence-Director of planned giving/legal counsel- $96, 577
Mike Zovath-Vice President $88,269
James Hatton- Controller $88,269
Mark Looy-VP of Ministry Relations- $88,269
Kathy Ellis- Director of Administration- $82,038
Carl Kerby-Board Member $80,580
Patrick Marsh- Director $75,288
Dan Zordel- Director of Product Development $67,916
Mike Riddle- Speaker $67,769
Paul Varnum-Director of Video Productions $67,570
Tom Miller- Director- Events Outreach $66,269
Rod Martin- Director of Internet Services $64,848

In contrast, of the 22 religious charities in the same expense bracket as AiG that were rated as four-star charities by Charity Navigator and had Form 990s on file, none had the number of highly-paid board members and employees that AiG does. While AiG has 28 employees or board members with salaries of over $50,000 a year, only one organization, World Harvest Mission, had as many people with salaries over $50,000- but they were all employees; all of its board members served at no cost. Across all of the 22 organizations, the average number of board members paid over $50.000 was 2 and the average number of employees paid over $50,000 was 4. Ten of the organizations had no employees who received compensation over $50,000 and six had no board members who received any compensation at all. In contrast, AiG had 9 board members and 19 employees who received salaries of $50,000 or more in 2006.

In the following table, "Year" is the year of the Form 990 on file, "BM" is the salary of the highest-paid board member, "Employee" is the salary of the highest-paid employee, "Emp. 50K" is the number of employees paid over $50,000 yearly, and "BM 50K" is the number of board members paid over $50,000 yearly.

Examination of Form 990s reveal some other interesting patterns as well. For example, in 2003, former CEO Bill Wise bought a 2002 Toyota Camry from AiG. Although the car was valued at $15,089, Wise payed only $7.00- yes, seven dollars- for it. That same year, Wise received a computer worth $1105 for zero dollars. It is interesting that 2003 was Wise's last year on the board...

In future installments, I will look at some even more unsavory practices of AiG, such as their numerous ventures into quote mining and their legal woes.

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