Saturday, March 09, 2013

Treatment Action Group Posts IRS 990s; NMAC's $10.5M Govt Grants 

Friends back East this week were curious about following the money at the Treatment Action Group, which describes itself as an independent AIDS research and drug think-tank and is based in New York City, and they asked me about TAG's IRS 990 filings.

I mistakenly thought TAG was transparent and posted many years of 990s on their site. TAG's Annual Reports page, until this week, only shared a dozen years' worth of updates and annual reports and not a single 990.

On Friday afternoon, I wrote to TAG's executive director Mark Harrington and the treasurer of the board Laura Morrison requesting that they get with the transparency program and share several years of 990 filings. By Saturday, TAG annual reports page had been updated to include their three most recent 990s. A step in the right direction, for which I've thanked them, but I also nudged them to share a few more years' of filings.

My friends were trying to determine if TAG had accepted funds from Big Pharma, but as with all 990s filed by every charity, donor information is omitted. One day in the near future, it's my hope that the IRS requires nonprofits to share this information on the 990.

Until then, in the interests of fuller transparency and accountability to people with HIV and AIDS, and the at-large AIDS constituency, I'd like to see TAG voluntarily disclose any grants they receive from drug companies on an annual basis. More sunshine about TAG's funders, information also omitted from their annual reports, is required and would greatly benefit the folks whose lives and wellness they are affecting through their think-tank and the policies they push.

How about it, Mark and Laura and colleagues? Will you disclose any and all drug company grants?

In a larger context, I wish to point out that TAG joining the growing number of AIDS Inc groups sharing a few 990s on their sites, further isolates Paul Kawata's National Minority AIDS Council on the ever-shorter list of organizations not providing online transparency.

Kawata's site makes this claim: NMAC’s advocacy efforts are funded through private funders and donors only.

Could he be more vague? NMAC's 2011 IRS 990 reveals on page 9, posted at a third-party site, that it receives $1.1 million in government grants. NMAC defenders: it's not enough that Kawata's 990s are available at the Foundation Center site. Basic AIDS Inc transparency equals at least three 990s on a group's site.

Kawata's claim that funding for his advocacy efforts comes from private individuals and companies is far from the full picture. Federal government grants in recent years for NMAC:

2008 = $3.4 million
2009 = $2.9 million
2010 = $3.1 million
2011 = $1.1 million

Total amount of public dollars flowing to this organization to fund their junkets and learn advocacy skills that pressures the federal health agencies to keep funding to NMAC over four years: $10.5 million.

From think-tanks to Washington based advocacy groups, let's follow the money and push for ever-more transparency from AIDS Inc.

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