Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ProPublica's 990: A Closer Look

ProPublica posted its Form 990 report to the IRS on Monday and -- predictably -- the only Google-able coverage, which comes courtesy of New York Fishbowl, zeroes in on the salaries paid to Paul Steiger, the organization's president and editor in chief.

Yes, Steiger made a lot of money -- $571,687 -- but this isn't news: This is essentially the same salary that Steiger made and disclosed the year before. We can argue (again) over whether that's appropriate at a nonprofit -- he probably made lots more than that at the Wall Street Journal -- but it's hard to summon outrage at this late date.

Potentially more interesting was the schedule of contributors included in the filing. Among other things, it shows that the Sandler Foundation, controlled by ProPublica founders Herb and Marion Sandler, kicked in just $4.5 million last year -- far short of the $10 million they had offered to front.

But there's no change in the Sandlers' rolling $10 million-per-year commitment, GM Dick Tofel explained in an email.

"We just came into the year with a lot of cash, requiring less during the year," he wrote. "The Sandlers’ commitment is unchanged."

Other big donors include the Knight Foundation ($985,000), the MacArthur Foundation ($500,000) and board member Mary Graham ($208,000 worth of Washington Post Co. Class B stock).

There's still work to be done filling out ProPublica's donor pyramid, however.

After Graham, the next-biggest contribution came from the Kohlberg Foundation ($50,000), meaning that ProPublica's five biggest donors accounted for 98 percent of the organization's $6.36 million in total revenues.

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