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March 28, 2023

Executive Compensation at the Alliance Defending Freedom (2021)

by Anne Paddock

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a tax-exempt, non-profit 501 (c) 3 that is described as a conservative  legal advocacy group that works to curtail rights of LGBTQ people while expanding “christian practices” in public schools and government (who serve all people), and to prevent access to a woman’s right to choose. How do they do this? Primarily through challenges in the legal system and taking on cases that further their mission and goals including the most recent case about a Colorado-based web page designer who “does not want to” (note:  she hasn’t been asked to) create wedding websites for gay couples.

Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, ADF “is committed to transforming law and culture so true freedom can flourish” which indicates that ADF has their own meaning of “true” as it applies to their beliefs and no others.  On their website, ADF states they are a “faith based 501c3 that legally defends the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious liberty” and that they are the “world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s design for marriage and family.” Really?  Sounds more like ADF is a tax-exempt organization committed to protecting their religious freedom, their free speech, and their design for marriage and family.

ADF has 8 independent voting members (directors) of its governing body although the website lists 9 directors (8 males and 1 female) and the Form 990 lists 10 (two are part-year).

In 2021, ADF reported total revenue of $79 million (compared to $65 million in 2020), most of which came from contributions, gifts, and grants ($76 million).  Expenses totaled $65 million (not including $2 million in depreciation) – 82% of revenue – with the largest expense reported to be compensation.  338 employees received $36 million in compensation which equates to an average compensation of $107,000 annually.  However, only 74 employees received more than $100,000 with the 13 most highly compensated reported to be:

  • $503,909:  Michael Farris, President and CEO
  • $485,633:  Alan Sears, Founder (departed July 31, 2019)
  • $336,865:  Kristen Waggoner, General Counsel
  • $322,348:  Wayne Swindler, EVP, Finance and Administration
  • $292,828:  Tim Chandler, Sr Counsel
  • $276,050:  Jeffrey Ventrella, Sr Counsel, SVP of Training
  • $266,099:  Brett Harvey, Sr Counsel, VP of Allied Legal Affairs
  • $258,004:  Jeremy Tedesco, Sr Counsel, VP of US Advocacy
  • $257,114:  David Cortman, Sr Counsel, VP of US Litigation 
  • $245,992:  Lance Bauslaugh, SVP of Development
  • $243,887:  John Bursch, VP of Appellate Advocacy, Sr Counsel
  • $230,944:  Tony Johnson, SVP of Operations and Direct Response
  • $227,048:  Glen Lavy, Corporate Counsel

The 13 most highly compensated employees (12 males and 1 female) received $4 million in compensation.  

Alan Sears departed ADF in July, 2019 and pursuant to a separation agreement, he received nearly $500,000 over his regular compensation (for a total of $800,000 in 2020) and an additional $500,000 in 2021.

ADF paid for first class or charter travel, and companion travel.  See Schedule J, Part III, Supplemental Information for more detail.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2020 for the year ending June 30, 2021), click here.

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