Sunday, October 27, 2013

Freedom to Marry's Evan Wolfson Smashes Salary Ceiling

For years, I've pushed the executive director of the gay marriage group Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson, pictured, to get with the voluntary transparency agenda and he has steadfastly refused. It's a shame he won't join the likes of G/L Advocates and Defenders, which shares eight years' filing on their site; HRC, GLAAD, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and GMHC all of which post five years' of IRS 990s, and Lambda Legal, three years' worth are shared on its site.

FTM stands alone in that it posts not a single 990 on its financials page. (Ok, not quite true because National Organization for Marriage currently also doesn't post any 990s, like they once did. Isn't weird to think FTM and NOM would share anything in common?)

I obtained Wolfson's 2012 IRS 990s, for FTM's 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 arms, from their chief operating officer Scott Davenport recently and here are the listed names and salaries:


Marc Solomon, national campaign director:

Thalia Zapatos, director of public engagement:


Scott Kongslie; development director

Wolfson has smashed the quarter million dollar salary ceiling and this week I asked Davenport to explain why their group keeps their 990s off their site, and he replied:

Our rationale is that Freedom to Marry provides 990s swiftly to anyone who requests them, as required by law and with complete transparency. As a campaign, we like to know who is requesting the data, as permitted by law and reciprocal transparency. 

Sounds like they're nervous over who is requesting public info and may be too invested in keeping fiscal matters private. After reading the New Yorker magazine paywalled profile on DOMA's successful lesbian litigant Edie Windsor, and an alleged quote from Wolfson, I have a better understanding of why his group isn't fully and voluntarily transparent like so many Gay Inc organizations:

Some of [Robbie] Kaplan's movement colleagues felt that Windsor's finances, conversely, were overly sound. "Evan Wolfson would call me and tell me, 'Ooh, don't talk about the money,'" she said. They thought Edie would seem too rich. I mean, they're so condescending in their thinking."

Wolfson said, "Robbie's misremembering." But, he allowed, "There were some people who felt that, while Edie is a wonderful and compelling person, the story of an estate tax bill might not be as compelling as a more relatable injury."

After years of battling with Wolfson to just post FTM's 990s to his site and the explanation from Davenport, yes, I believe Kaplan was accurately remembering what Wolfson said to her.


Anonymous said...

Michael -

I fully support your calls for transparency. All of these 990s should be online.

Given that, rather than excerpt a few data regarding salaries, why not post the full 990 for FTM?

Also, on the salary issue, I don't think that Wolfson's salary is excessive. Unlike talentless mediocrities like Rea Carey, Wolfson is a skilled attorney, with decades of experience in constitutional law. Having him at the helm of FTM is key. Over some 30 years, he has given up millions in compensation to work on gay rights rather than for corporate interests. So I wouldn't begrudge him that salary, especially in light of FTM's revenue.

Michael Petrelis said...

If you fully support transparency then please persuade Evan to post his 990s on his site and don't expect me to do his transparency work. Sheesh. We are talking simply posting the tax returns and FTM is in the shrinking minority of Gay Inc groups that don't share any 990s on their sites.

His board can pay him whatever they like and my role is not to kiss his butt, but to kick it.

Regardless of the pay scale, he's not transparent.