Safe Minds and David Kirby

5 Jul

Suspicions have been circling for a long time that there was more than just coincidence to the timing of writing and publication of Kirby’s Evidence of Harm. Those suspicions were enhanced for me when it became clear that a lot of Kirby’s associations with certain autism/anti-vaccine groups such as the National Autism Association were on a financial footing.

The ‘official’ story regarding the writing of Evidence of Harm, as reported by Kirby himself, was that Kirby was casting about for something to write about of book length and had been approached by several autism parents who wanted to share their beliefs that vaccines had made their kids autistic. According to Kirby, he was skeptical and unsure about whether to proceed with it or not. What made up his mind apparently was seeing a news report that a politician had managed to attach a no fault rider to a bill passing through Congress, absolving vaccine makers of any legal responsibility.

However, I don’t believe him. Up until recently, that belief was simply a belief. Rumours circulated that Sallie Bernard of Safe Minds was listed as the domain controller (i.e. she’d bought and paid for) the domain evidenceofharm.com. I emailed her to ask her one way or the other. She refused to answer that question. Kathleen Seidel has asked David Kirby that question. He refused to answer.

Why does it matter? Because Kirby claims to be impartial in this debate. His reviewers claim he ‘walks the middle line’ in his book. that his account is ‘even handed’. I would like to know how someone who has an established financial relationship to one major autism/anti-vax group can possibly be impartial. Would the NAA continue to fund Kirby’s website if he said he didn’t think thiomersal caused autism? I doubt it.

Turning our attention to Safe Minds, we can look at their records – records they must supply be law as they’re a non-profit organisation – and see exactly what they have financed. You can access these records via the orgs IRS Form 990:

Form 990 is an annual reporting return that certain federally tax-exempt organizations must file with the IRS. It provides information on the filing organization’s mission, programs, and finances.

Attached is Safe Minds 990 for 2005. It has some interesting details in it.

If we look at line 43, it has a listing amount of $99,196 for ‘Professional Fees’ expenses placed under the ‘Program Services’ Category.

This means that they paid people they considered professionals almost $100k to provide services to their programs. On page 15 of this same document they go into detail about what these services are.

…..THE BOOK “EVIDENCE OF HARM, MERCURY IN VACCINES AND THE AUSTISM EPIDEMIC: A MEDICAL CONTROVERSY” WAS RELEASED IN 2004 AND SAFEMINDS PRESIDENT, LYN REDWOOD, WAS FEATURED ON THE MONTEL WILLIAMS SHOW ALONG WITH AUTHOR, DAVID KIRBY. THIS IMPORTANT BOOK EXAMINES BOTH THE PERSONAL STORIES OF FAMILIES AND THE UNFOLDING DRAMA IN THE COURTS AND HALLS OF CONGRESS.

This is listed as a ‘Program Service Accomplishment’.

So what can we conclude? To me, this is pretty damning evidence that David Kirby was paid by Safe Minds to write Evidence of Harm. It certainly ties in with Kirby’s other financial benefits from the NAA. So much for impartiality.

I have some questions for Safe Minds and David Kirby.

1) Did David Kirby receive any kind of financial incentive from Safe Minds or NAA or any of their boards prior to writing Evidence of Harm?
2) If so, how much?
3) If not, please explain the 990 form from 2005 above and tell us exactly what the information in it means.

33 Responses to “Safe Minds and David Kirby”

  1. dkmnow July 5, 2007 at 09:28 #

    Surely just a coincidence that — with the vaccine court proceedings finally underway — Kirby suddenly decided he was “tired of autism.” I mean, it must be a coincidence because, otherwise, one might conclude that he knew something he wasn’t telling anyone…

    (Hmmm…why did the name “Andy Fastow” just pop into my head?)

  2. livsparents July 5, 2007 at 13:14 #

    The whole explaination of the 99K puts in in a better perspective:

    PUBLIC EDUCATION AND OUTREACH:
    SAFEMINDS HAS ESTABLISHED AND MAINTAINS THEIR WEBSITE (WWW.SAFEMINDS.ORG) AND ISSUES PRESS RELEASES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS TO MAKE ACCURATE INFORMATION ON MERCURY TOXICITY AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC. AS PART OF THIS EFFORT, SAFEMINDS LEADERSHIP ALSO HELD OR ATTENDED MEETINGS WITH NIEHS, NIH IACC, HHS AND PARTICIPATED
    IN THE SEPTEMBER TOWN HALL MEETING WITH DR. SCHWARTS FROM NIEHS. THE BOOK “EVIDENCE OF HARM, MERCURY IN VACCINES AND THE AUSTISM EPIDEMIC: A MEDICAL CONTROVERSY” WAS RELEASED IN 2004 AND SAFEMINDS PRESIDENT, LYN REDWOOD, WAS FEATURED ON THE MONTEL WILLIAMS SHOW ALONG WITH AUTHOR, DAVID KIRBY. THIS IMPORTANT BOOK EXAMINES BOTH THE PERSONAL STORIES OF FAMILIES AND THE UNFOLDING DRAMA IN THE COURTS AND HALLS OF CONGRESS. 99,196.

    So, in my mind, the 99K was not only going to ‘line the pockets of Mr Kirby, but also for website maintenance, I would guess travel expenses to and from Montel, and press releases. Those things ain’t cheap, don’t leave much for Kirby to get fat on, does it?

    Come on guys, you keep trying to play the ‘evil financial gain’ card with these people. Why not stick with the bad science, dangerous practices and shady characters? Unless you can find some REAL financial problems… stick with the facts rather than the innuendo…

  3. isles July 5, 2007 at 13:31 #

    I think 99 cents is a damning as $99,000. A real journalist would not take one cent to write an advocacy piece (even one styled as “neutral”). The Investigative Reporters and Editors should demand their prize back.

  4. Joseph July 5, 2007 at 13:48 #

    No doubt SafeMinds told Kirby: “do make it appear impartial.”

    The money is no big deal. There’s nothing wrong in getting paid to write a book. Pretending there was no conflict of interest and promoting the book in that manner is what’s questionable about the whole ordeal.

    As usual, I don’t expect SafeMinds to respond to the charges.

  5. Kev July 5, 2007 at 14:41 #

    “So, in my mind, the 99K was not only going to ‘line the pockets of Mr Kirby, but also for website maintenance, I would guess travel expenses to and from Montel, and press releases.”

    Bill, I’ve been doing web design/development for over 10 years now. I can categorically state that there is absolutely no way that the annual maintenance of safeminds.org could possibly cost more than £1k. It is a small, self-maintained, static site with no content management system. The only way the site could come close to approaching even $10k in cost was if 2005 was the first financial year it generated cost (i.e. it was set up in 2004). Which it wasn’t. It was set up in 2001.

    Now, how much does a hotel booking and plane tickets cost for two public appearances?

    And all that to on side for a moment. The _amount of money_ whilst of interest is not the important thing. The impartiality is what’s at stake here. Would you agree Bill that the fact that SafeMinds have (or seem to have) paid David Kirby to write them a book is not an impartial act? Would you further agree that Kirby’s claim to impartiality are compromised by this information?

  6. Brian Deer July 5, 2007 at 15:02 #

    Nah, I don’t see any suggestion that they paid Kirby. They probably just pay themselves to go to his book promotions.

    Sorry, I think this thread is going a bit picky. The antivaxxers these days are scrabbling around trying to link people together on the basis of who they speak to ["I danced with a man, who danced with a girl, who danced with the prince of wales..." etc]. I don’t think the neurodiverse should go down that path. It just gets too nutty.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see them saying they paid him. Possibly they hire the venues for him to speak, which would be kind of interesting. But I don’t spot any admissions on that.

  7. livsparents July 5, 2007 at 15:15 #

    There are actually 4 trips, presumedly for the ‘whole posse’:

    “AS PART OF THIS EFFORT, SAFEMINDS LEADERSHIP ALSO HELD OR ATTENDED MEETINGS WITH NIEHS, NIH IACC, HHS AND PARTICIPATED IN THE SEPTEMBER TOWN HALL MEETING WITH DR. SCHWARTS FROM NIEHS.’

    Don’t forget about the publicist and I ‘spected you’d have that attitude about the web maintenence. I would think they’d hire someone, at least part time, to sit around and wait for new content, don’t forget the spamming as well.

    I don’t think that there’s any smoking gun here. Were they in bed, yes. Did someone get paid after the act? No way to tell and there’s no way the John nor the prostitute are going to put it on their taxes…

  8. dkmnow July 5, 2007 at 17:02 #

    Question:

    Was “EoH” sold through SM to raise funds? If so, was it sold exclusively through SM? Or was it also on the open market? Or was it exclusively on the open market? And in any case, how many copies were sold?

    [Moreover, if it was all through SM, and that 99k or so really is a fair annual representation of the whole works, then from the looks of it, Kirby was working for a pittance. So, given that he has already claimed to be an outsider and that it's "not his fight," why on earth would he have done it at all?]

    Not rhetorical questions — I’m really curious. If the book was sold exclusively through SM to raise funds, with some amount going back to Kirby, AND all of that is accounted for in the annual financial reports, then I can’t see making a huge fuss over that alone without more info — except, of course, that it was quackery from the start, which is bad enough.

    BUT, if the book has been on the open market (as I had always just assumed), then what we have is Kirby and SM both acting as mutual echo-chamber PR operations for each other, possibly with Kirby (and/or some proxy, official or otherwise) raking in bucks far beyond anything that would have to be reflected in SM’s records. I wouldn’t presume to guess whether there’s any evidence of impropriety, but such a scenario DOES leave open the possibility of, say, kickbacks or all manner of other shenannigans.

    But first, I’d need those initial marketing and circulation questions answered. Can anyone set me straight on those?

  9. dkmnow July 5, 2007 at 17:28 #

    OKAY, after a little googling, I see that “EoH” has been on the open market all along. But I haven’t seen any estimates of how many copies have been sold.

    Still, it’s hardly a wild guess that Kirby has gotten stinking rich off of all this, yes?

  10. Kev July 5, 2007 at 18:18 #

    Not sure about stinking rich. I hear from *very* good sources that he’s sold about 5,000 hardback copies of EoH so far.

    Brian, I totally agree with not getting this into a ‘conspiracy theory’ sideroad. I definitely don’t think there’s any kind of conspiracy here. However, there is already one established financial tie to an autism/antivax group and this is what looks very much like another one.

    Lets bear in mind that everytime some poor scientist writes a study that doesn’t agree lockstep with the SafeMinds/NAA position they bring out some hit piece about their supposed pharma connections. If they want to play the ‘financial irregularity’ card then I believe that same standard should apply to them also.

    I also have an issue with a man who wears his book reviews lauding his impartiality like he’s some kind of crusading knight when its clear he’s about as far from impartiality as the rest of us. i.e. not impartial at all.

  11. dkmnow July 5, 2007 at 20:46 #

    So, at least 5,000 in hb, and it’s been in paperback for a while too (both Amazon and B&N carry it), so he certainly isn’t martyring himself over this…

    The “stooge for Big Pharma” accusation always gets a good belly-laugh from me, given my frequent tirades about psych-meds. But as fine an argument as that is, one wonders that they don’t call us “anti-semitic” and “terrorists” as well, just for good measure.

    And with my one bottle of ibuprofen per year, I’d love to stroll into their kitchens to their legendary “cabinets full of dietary supplements,” pluck one bottle off the shelf at random and trace the pills back to their parent corporation to see just who is more a slave to Big Pharma, me or them.

    Fun.

  12. kristina July 5, 2007 at 21:35 #

    SM was originally located in the NJ town we used to live in.

    Just a coincidence, really, but I always remark upon reading their older publications and seeing the name of my town come up (it is neither a large nor particularly notable place)—it is fine by me that they are gone elsewhere!

  13. mfano July 6, 2007 at 01:50 #

    Not sure who cites the 5,000 HC figure. I saw approx. 21,000 in HC and exactly 5,151 in paper. Solid sales for a HC nonfiction book. But those are “Bookscan” figures (like Nielsen ratings) that are bookstore sales only (and not even superstores like Walmart and Sam’s Club, in the event they even carried the book). Hence those figures also do not include what would be purchased by an organization for an event. A non-profit organization could buy thousands to give away or sell and those figures would only show up on the organization’s tax return (if you get my drift). I suspect that organizations that support the author’s work would buy up lots of copies. Remember Jim Wright from the US congress (ok, this is a UK website, maybe many of you don’t). But he wrote a book and it was revealed that he bought thousands of copies to jack up sales numbers.

  14. Kev July 6, 2007 at 02:41 #

    mfano, you are correct. I meant paperback, not hardback.

  15. John Gilmore July 6, 2007 at 02:52 #

    Hi Kevin,

    A lot of people think you, as you are well aware, along with several other extremely busy bloggers, are subsidized by the corporate interests you defend so intensely. Are you willing to post your tax retuens, or whatever the similar documents are called in England online?

    If not then I think you would be displaying just a bit of hypocrisy about this. Don’t you?

    John Gilmore

  16. Do'C July 6, 2007 at 05:32 #

    Congratulations John, Tu Quoque and Pharma Shill Gambit all in one comment!

    Kevin, I’m with Brian Deer on this one. Kirby and his book are well on their way to irrelevancy regardless of Kirby’s potential partiality.

  17. Kev July 6, 2007 at 05:51 #

    Hi John – what corporate interests am I defending? Please can you give me contact names and numbers as I seem to be missing all these subsidies you’re referring to.

    Also, I’m employed by a company, not self employed so I don’t do any tax returns as such. Like every other employed person in the UK my tax and national insurance are removed before I get my payslip.

    Lastly John, I’m not claiming to be impartial. My attacking of yours and others position is solely down to the fact that its damaging health, damaging autistic people and holding back progress. At some point you and your conspiracy theory driven pals are going to have to come to terms with the fact that people don’t like what you and you orgs do because they’re not doing autism acceptance any good whatsoever. Nothing to do with defending Merck/GSK/etc and everything to do with exposing your hypocrisy.

  18. kristina July 6, 2007 at 05:53 #

    When EoH came out, I recall messages sent round a number of email lists that I was on. We were encouraged to buy the book to increase sales. I went to DAN some years ago and apparently Kirby was speaking; I did not hear him, but did see some stacks of his book (hardback).

    (I have read the book; the library has a copy.)

  19. kristina July 6, 2007 at 06:07 #

    This was the message sent out to buy Kirby’s book, from an email dated June 6, 2005:

    Join thousands of parents nationwide in this campaign to push David Kirby’s Evidence of Harm to the top of the bestseller lists. So far sales have been strong for this milestone work on the autism epidemic. Now it’s time for more. Time to make this the #1 book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. On June 8, please buy multiple copies of Evidence of Harm from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Then give your extra copies to other parents, physicians, legislators, and journalists.

  20. qchan63 July 6, 2007 at 07:19 #

    I love Mr. Gilmore’s “a lot of people think” gambit there. It reminds me of Mr. Kennedy’s similarly vague-but-ominous “hundreds of studies” that allegedly support the mercury=autism hypothesis, or the “increasing numbers of scientists” i’m always hearing about who are likewise coming around to that way of thinking. (They all missed their flights to the Omnibus hearings, apparently … )

  21. The Big Head Speaks July 6, 2007 at 08:01 #

    Hmmm. !http://www.autismrally.com/IMG_5505.jpg!

  22. Tom July 6, 2007 at 19:38 #

    John,

    A lot of people think you, as you are well aware, along with several other extremely busy advocacy group members and Yahoo chat group denizens, are subsidized by vaccine injury lawyers. Are you willing to post your tax returns?

    If not then I think you would be displaying just a bit of hypocrisy about this. Don’t you?

  23. John Gilmore July 7, 2007 at 00:45 #

    Couple of things,

    First, I think it is extremely rude to refer to me as the “Big Head”, it is well know that I am “Bucket Head.”

    Second, Kevin’s throwing around the accusations. Not me. And if he has nothing to hide lets see his financial documents. And if trial lawyers were willing to subsidize my work I would take their money in a flash. Perhaps, you Brits aren’t paying attention to what happens over here in the US but we have a President who believes as “Commander-in-Chief” he has the authority to do anything he wants. Trial lawyers are one of the few checks we have left over here to an executive run rampant.

    By the way, your buddy Bernie Marcus, is the primary bank roller of Autism Speaks, and the primary bank roller on the “tort reform” movement here in the US which is a corporate movement to prevent people injured by corporate activities from any redress in the courts. However, when Berie’s business Home Depot, and source of his billions, believed it was shortchanged by a major credit card company he hired an army of trial lawyers to sue the pants of them. But this is the typical hypocrisy we have come to expect.

    So Kevin how do we know that you aren’t bankrolled by pharma? And your question about what corporate interests you are protecting is beneath you, it’s obvious to you and me and everyone else. How are you behaving any differently than what you accuse Kirby of doing? Lets see some documents proving that you aren’t a paid operative of pharmaceutical interests.

  24. John Gilmore July 7, 2007 at 00:51 #

    Couple more things,

    You are really quick to accuse the Giere’s of plagairism. Did you get permission from Christine Herren to use her photo on this website? I am pretty sure you are infriging her copyright.

    And did you get permission form Plastic Bertrand to use his song in its entirety on your video on You Tube? If you didn’t that is a copyright infringement as well, which is just another term for plagairism. People are getting sued for doing that Kev. More of those nasty trial lawyers running wild.

  25. Interverbal July 7, 2007 at 03:06 #

    “And if he has nothing to hide lets see his financial documents.”

    May I suggest John, that you contact the British government and request a statement on Kev’s taxes. You could share with them your concern that Kev is a pharma shill.

    “Trial lawyers are one of the few checks we have left over here to an executive run rampant.”

    So…the checks and balances consist of the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the trial lawyers?

  26. The Bucket Head Speaks July 7, 2007 at 03:51 #

    !http://www.lighthousestudios.info/IMG_2412.jpg!
    The photos are hosted on Christine Heeren’s website.
    This is a photo of me, Bucket Head getting a pay off from a trial lawyer or pharmco rep. Notice the size of my head. Impressive, huh?

  27. Kev July 7, 2007 at 05:22 #

    _”So Kevin how do we know that you aren’t bankrolled by pharma?”_

    You don’t. But then, all you are doing here is throwing accusations around wildly. What _I_ am doing here is presenting evidence and asking questions.

    _”And your question about what corporate interests you are protecting is beneath you, it’s obvious to you and me and everyone else.”_

    Lets pretend its not. Answer the question – I want a direct statement from you of exactly which corporations am actively protecting and which of them I am being bankrolled by. Not your opinion, I want your evidence Johnny. I’ll wait for alongside the evidence that vaccines cause autism.

    _”How are you behaving any differently than what you accuse Kirby of doing?”_

    In terms of what?

    In terms of impartiality? He pretends he is when he clearly isn’t. I don’t pretend to be impartial. This makes him a liar.

    In terms of being paid fir his opinion? He clearly is being. I am not. I accept no money whatsoever for running this site. I don’t even carry any advertising. If you believe I am being bankrolled by someone then lets see your evidence. Without it, you’re just another asshole with a big mouth in a movement full of assholes with big mouths.

    _”You are really quick to accuse the Giere’s of plagairism.”_

    That’s because they are plagiarists. Don’t you get it John? When you plagiarise, you commit plagiarism and become a plagiarist – is that clear enough for you?

    _”Did you get permission from Christine Herren to use her photo on this website? I am pretty sure you are infriging her copyright.”_

    I don’t know any Christine Herren. I know a Christine Heeren. This lady posted a video of her son being chelated on YouTube. She marked it as being allowed to be embeded. Which I was happy to do. When she removed it I relocated it to Google Video. You have a very weird idea of copyright infringement John.

    _”And did you get permission form Plastic Bertrand to use his song in its entirety on your video on You Tube? If you didn’t that is a copyright infringement as well, which is just another term for plagairism. People are getting sued for doing that Kev. More of those nasty trial lawyers running wild.”_

    I’m happy to endure the wrath of Plastic Bertrand John.

  28. The Bucket Head Speaks July 7, 2007 at 06:35 #

    Kev, I think Mr. Bucket head is complaining about the two photos Mr. Big Head and Mr. Bucket head posted here in these comments. They are hosted on Ms. Heeren’s site. That is she is paying for them and in control of them as we speak, they are just appearing here. I.e., no one downloaded them and then uploaded them elsewhere.

  29. Kev July 7, 2007 at 06:42 #

    Ah-ha. Then John can join the ranks of the spectacularly stupid immediately.

    John, this is the web. People link to things. Its kind of the point.

  30. Prometheus July 8, 2007 at 08:25 #

    There was a time when people who made unsubstantiated claims of conspiracy were removed to a local place of rest and quiet. For good or ill, those days are gone.

    If “Big Pharma” was paying off as many people as are claimed, they wouldn’t have any money to post those amazing profits. It appears much more likely that claims of conspiracy or pay-off are simply ruses to attempt to discredit critics.

    As the vaccines-cause-autism hypothesis slowly sinks from under them, the people who had relied on it to give them a target for their rage and a hope for treatment are forced to face their own doubts. Rather than accept the fact that they have been misled, it appears to be easier to dismiss the data. And, of course, the best way to dismiss the data is to discredit the person talking about it.

    In reality, even if Kev or I are on the payroll of “Big Pharma”, this has no impact on the validity of our argument. If it makes you feel better to dismiss anyone who disagrees with you, so be it. But don’t be surprised when reality bites you on the bum without warning.

    Prometheus

  31. Matt July 8, 2007 at 15:51 #

    I have to admit it…I am a PHARMMA shill.

    People Hating Autism Make Me Apathetic/Amused/Annoyed….

    Matt

  32. anonimouse July 9, 2007 at 04:16 #

    Look, anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that Kirby’s book was not even-handed, that it was greatly influenced (if not outright paid for) by SafeMinds and other such groups, and that Kirby has clearly cast his lot with said organizations to the exclusion of all others. I’m sure that the admission on the SafeMinds 990 for 2005 is their way of legally covering their ass while giving themselves wriggle room when confronted with the question.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Left Brain/Right Brain » Nancy Snyderman and the NAA - July 7, 2007

    [...] OK to pay people or not? Or is it only OK if you’re the parent group of autistic kids? As I talked about recently, its clear that both the NAA and SafeMinds have financial interests of their own that need [...]

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