The hardest working man in the charity racket

This isn’t new news, but a correspondent has alerted me to some amusing details regarding the Ethan Allen Institute, a.k.a. the Vermont outlet of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Specifically, EAI’s required annual filing with the IRS for 2014.

EAI, for those blessedly unaware, produces modest quantities of free-market puffery. And it proudly states as a matter of sacred principle, right there in its IRS Form 990-EZ, “We don’t receive — nor would we accept — government funding or support.”

Which is true except for EAI’s tax-deductible status, which is definitely a tangible form of government support.

Now, you might be dismayed at the thought of your tax dollars effectively underwriting EAI’s “educational activities,” but you can take some comfort in knowing how hard those guys are working for your money. Because according to page 2 of its filing, EAI President Rob Roper is working an average of 80 hours per week. His salary: a paltry $50,000.

On an hourly basis, the poor guy’s making less than Bernie Sanders minimum wage!

Also drawing Scroogian remuneration: Vice President John McClaughry, putting in 40 hours per week and earning $22,000; Treasurer Anne McClaughry, working 20 hours per week for no pay; and Director Bill Sayre, working 40 hours per week for a measly $7,200.

(Sad to say, those three worthies took substantial pay cuts in 2014. EAI’s filing for 2013 reported that the McClaughrys’ combined take-home was $40,000, and Sayre was paid $9,600. Hope they’re not resorting to Alpo for dinner.)

Now, far be it from me to question their veracity, although I must confess I’d love to get a look at their timecards. Especially those for Messrs. Roper and Sayre.

Does Roper truly put in an average of 80 hours per week? Perhaps, if you count browsing the Internet, schmoozing with his fellow travelers, listening to Rush Limbaugh and watching Fox News. Which hey, for his job it’s all research, right?

Bill Sayre’s 40-hour claim is tough to credit because he’s got so many other irons in the fire. He’s chair of the board at Associated Industries of Vermont, which has one of the most energetic lobbying efforts at the Statehouse; he’s the co-owner of A. Johnson Co., a timber harvesting and forestry firm; and he’s president of Duncan Hermanson, a real estate investment firm. If he’s keeping up with all that, plus spending 40 hours a week on EAI business, he’s a better man than I.

EAI’s total income for 2014, by the way, was just under $164,000. Thanks to extremely permissive disclosure rules for “charitable” enterprises, there’s no information on the sources of that money. But between 1998 and 2013, EAI received a healthy $572,260 from out-of-state donors with ties to the Koch Brothers’ network of conservative foundations. I think it’s safe to assume that EAI continued to drink from that same chalice in 2014.

To be fair, a lot of liberal causes benefit from non-profit status as well, often stretching beyond all recognition the meaning of “educational.” We could use some serious reform of federal and state tax rules on “charitable contributions,” but I doubt it’ll ever happen. As the state legislature discovered earlier this year, that’s a sacred political cow.

Oh, one more item from EAI’s Form 990. The very last line, under “Supplemental Information,” reads:

The Institute does not provide tanning services.

Good to know.

5 thoughts on “The hardest working man in the charity racket

  1. Estella

    I enjoy reading your posts. But if you’re working on behalf of Vermonters, I’d like to see you dig this deep and find out how much Shumlin and company have invested in green mountain power and ‘green’ energy. Since número uno in this state is not required to fully disclose all of their investments yet have full power to drive legislation; since there is no independent ethics commission. And no recall. Do that story-again in more detail. That would help Vermonters more.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      At the risk of sounding flip, I actually don’t work on behalf of Vermonters. This is a blog. I write what I’m inspired to write, and I don’t get paid for it. Which means I don’t have the time or resources to dive into public records or muckrake, much as I might like to.

  2. David Bresett

    They are obviously being very untruthful in their economic funding of themselves. I have at times listened to the radio show -I keep an airsick bag close by- they put on and I must say, they are stinking up the airwaves with their FOX, so called news, falsehoods and complete untruths. The parade of debunked guessed just doesn’t add up to what real Vermonters can stomach.

  3. Brooke Paige


    You should consider setting up your VPO a 501(c)3. I am sure you could raise as much a John and Rob do for EAI. Hell, while I am sure I disagree with you as often a I agree with you, I’d certainly be willing to send you the same $25 a year that EAI hustles out of me. I think you crank out some really worthwhile material and would be more than willing to support your efforts.

    Best Wishes, Brooke

    postscript, While you may not see your contributions here as “working” on behalf of your fellow Vermonters – You are contributing valuable insight from a unique perspective.


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