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February 10, 2020

How Donations are Spent at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH)

by Anne Paddock

The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) sounds like a very important non-profit with all the key buzz words – American, Council, Science, and Health – in its name but in reality ACSH is a very small (raises about $1 million annually and has a $1 endowment) non-profit, tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) whose “mission is to ensure peer reviewed, evidence-based science reaches the public, the media, and the decision makers who determine public policy” except that they don’t according to some.

ACSH has been under fire by the US Right to Know who claims ACSH is a corporate front group that solicits money from tobacco, chemical, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and other companies in exchange for defending and promoting their products.  Mother Jones has also written about ACSH writing “The American Council on Science and Health defends fracking, BPA, and pesticides,” while accepting donations from Chevron, Coca-Cola, Bristol-Myers, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Bayer, Proctor and Gamble, Syngenta, Altria, McDonald’s, and others.

In addition, it is important to note the premier source for health and science information is PubMed:  a free search engine accessing the abstracts and references to the sciences and biomedical topics.  Don’t want to spend time reading the studies or abstracts?  Then, turn to Nutrition Facts (www.nutritionfacts.org), a non-profit tax-exempt organization that reads the studies and provides 3-5 minute videos or short summaries telling the reader who did the study, how it was done, who paid for it, and what the outcomes were. Just go to the site, type in whatever you’re interested in (i.e. BPA,  smoking, pesticides, organic, cholesterol, eggs, diabetes, high blood pressure, sugar, etc) and the information comes up. It’s that easy and it’s trustworthy.

So, before you take a statement by the ACSH as truth, find out what their claim was based on and specifically what studies from they relied on to back up those claims.

According to the IRS Form 990 (2017) for the year ending June 30, 2018, ACSH reported total revenue of $1.3 million, most of which came from contributions from unnamed sources.

Expenses totaled $2 million and were categorized as follows:

  • $1.1 million (85% of revenue):  Compensatoin
  • $ .3 million (23% of revenue):  Office-related Expenses
  • $ .2 million (15% of revenue):  Fees for Services (fundraising, accounting, etc)
  • $ .2 million (15% of revenue):  Research Fees (no detail provided)
  • $ .2 million (15% of revenue):  Direct Mail

The largest expense for ACSH is compensation for the 9 employees who received an average compensation of $122,000. However, only three employees received more than $100,000:

  • $235,151:  Henry Campbell, President
  • $114,103:  Jonathan Bloom, Director of Chemical and Pharmaceuticals
  • $108,906:  Cheryl Martin, Director of Operations/Treasurer/Secretary

ACSH pays for health or social club dues or initiation fees. Specifically, ACSH provides up to $800 annually per employee for a health club membership.

ION Publications, Inc (which is owned by Henry Campbell, President of ACSH) was compensated $50,000 for website development services.

Using the above information, every $100 in revenue was spent as follows:

 $100:  Revenue

-$ 85: Compensation

-$ 23:  Office-related Expenses

-$ 15:  Fees for Services

-$ 15:  Research Fees

-$ 15:  Direct Mail

-$153:  Total Expenses

-$ 53:  Expenses in excess of Revenue

As illustrated above, ACSH spent $153 for every $100 in revenue collected.  In aggregate numbers, they spent $700,000 more than they raised. To cover these expenses, they relied on the general fund which had $1.9 million at the beginning of the year. After deducting the $700,000 in excess expenses and $100,000 in unrealized losses on investments, ACSH had $1.1 million in the general fund (which some refer to as the endowment) at year-end.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2017) for the year ending June 30, 2018, click here.

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