Jay Sekulow, head of the American Center for Law and Justice, has made a name for himself over the last two decades as a fundie counterpart to the ACLU. But now, according to an article in today's Tennessean questions are being raised about its finances. Seems that the ACLJ and its sister organization, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, have paid out small fortunes to Sekulow and his family. (the article is also reprinted in USA Today)
Along with its spiritual benefits, Sekulow’s new calling has come with significant financial benefits.
Since 1998, the two charities have paid out more than $33 million to members of Sekulow’s family and businesses they own or co-own, according to the charities’ federal tax returns, known as form 990s.
One of the charities is controlled by the Sekulow family — tax documents show that all four of CASE’s board members are Sekulows and another is an officer — an arrangement criticized by a nonprofit watchdog group.
Among the payments--$15.4 million to a law firm controlled by Sekulow, $15.4 million in jet lease payments to a production company owned by Sekulow and another owned by his sister-in-law, and a $245,000 home loan for Sekulow's wife.
These arrangements don't sit too well with Daniel Borochoff of the American Institute for Philanthropy.
Nonprofit board members are supposed to be independent and look out for the best interests of donors. That’s nearly impossible with so many family members on a board, he said, after reviewing three years of CASE and ACLJ tax returns.
“Are they going to operate in the best interest of the family or the best interest of the charity or the public?” he said. “They are only human.”
Borochoff is also concerned that Sekulow's donors don't know how the money is being distributed. As the result of a recent restructuring, the ACLJ is now a d/b/a for CASE. Many of the disbursements to Sekulow's family are listed on CASE's returns, but not the ACLJ's.
Moreover, no one knows how much Sekulow actually earns. Sekulow reportedly hasn't taken a salary since 2002. However, the law firm that got paid $15.4 million operates out of a building owned by CASE, and Sekulow himself was paid $85,000 by CASE in 2009.
Looks like Sekulow has learned more than a few lessons from his mentor, Pat Robertson--including how to obfuscate where the money's going.
Update: lgerard mentions in the comments that Legal Times ran a story on Sekulow's financial dealings back in 2005. However, this is probably the first time this story has reached the general public.