Search results for 'Jennifer larson'

Brian Deer: VanDerHorst-Larson: misinformed mother scatters food for the birds

19 Oct

Brian Deer recently lectured at the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse on his journalism involving Andrew Wakefield’s research efforts and the improprieties found in those efforts. Not surprisingly, this led to a response by Mr. Wakefield and his supporters. I’ve pretty much given up on fact checking their complaints. Or, in this case, even really reading them.

But, complaints were made and, in this case, Mr. Deer has responded. His written response as VanDerHorst-Larson: misinformed mother scatters food for the birds.

Mr. Deer introduces his article with these paragraphs:

After the collapse of what was only ever a fringe campaign in the United States, claiming that vaccines were responsible for an epidemic of autism, small groups of ill-informed, misguided and sometimes frankly malicious, people became desperate for attention. This led to a barrage of emails – often abusive or crammed with hate speech – to university staff following my October 2012 lectures in Wisconsin.

The complaint below by one Jennifer VanDerHorst-Larson, who said she was founder of something she called the “Canary Party”, was one of the few that didn’t ooze with personal bile. But even she hadn’t checked her facts.

Ms VanDerHorst-Larson’s complaints are numbered, and I respond beneath each.

An example of such a complaint, with a partial quote of Mr. Deer’s response is given here:

8. Mr. Deer also failed to disclose that there were no complaints against Wakefield by the children’s families, most of whom very strongly support him, and many of whom credit his team with a diagnosis that led to effective treatment of their children’s bowel disease.

The father of the only child in Wakefield’s series who was not entered in (failed) UK compensation litigation described Wakefield’s reporting in the Lancet as “a clear misrepresentation of my son’s history” and “an outright fabrication”.

If you wish to read a point by point response, again, the link is VanDerHorst-Larson: misinformed mother scatters food for the birds.

Children with Autism Deserve Education, but I don’t support C.A.D.E.

17 Jun

There is a charity called “Children with Autism Deserve Education“. C.A.D.E or CADE for short. I ran across them a few years ago and saw some expenses in their tax forms that I felt were, let’s say, interesting. So they stuck in my mind and I decided recently to check into them again.

The name suggests a strong focus on education. I know many who will take issue with the use of “with” autism. That aside, helping autistic kids get access to education is a good thing. The vast majority of the money I donate to charity goes to exactly that cause–providing education opportunity for autistic kids.

The tax records indicate that C.A.D.E. spends a lot of money on non educational projects. On alternative medicine, for example. It looks like they’ve spent money on vaccines-cause-autism research. And if I were donating money just based on the name of the org, I’d not be happy with that.

To be clear, C.A.D.E. is public about their support for non educational projects. That “medical interventions” and research into causes are part of their agenda.

Before we dive into the details of where money is spent, let’s take a look at how they present themselves to the public. If one goes to the C.A.D.E. website and checks the “about” page, the first thing one sees is this:

About C.A.D.E.
Helping Children With Autism Reach Their Full Potential Through Financial Support For Evidence-Based Education And Therapy.

More and more children in the United States are diagnosed with autism. In fact, 1 in every 59 children was identified with autism spectrum disorder in 2014—up from 1 in 150 in the year 2000.

While opportunities for high-quality therapy and educational resources are increasing to account for this growing prevalence, intensive treatments are often well beyond a family’s financial means and many public schools don’t have the resources to provide them.

According to a 2014 study, the total lifetime cost of supporting an individual with autism is an astonishing $1.4 million in the United States. If an intellectual disability is also present, the total rises even more to $2.4 million. Education alone can cost a family an extra $8,600 per year.

We Believe That Children With Autism Deserve To Obtain The Most Effective Means Of Education.
C.A.D.E. Exists To Help Them Access It.

Through grants, C.A.D.E. helps fund evidence-based education, therapy and medical interventions for children with autism that don’t have the financial resources. Since 2014, C.A.D.E. has provided more than $500,000 in financial support to families in Minnesota—helping kids reach their full potential to live healthy, happy, productive lives.

From my perspective, this sounded reasonable right up the the phrase “medical interventions”. Education is a worthy goal. Therapy can include speech and language therapy, for example.

“Medical interventions” tells me that they are probably supporting alternative medicine. Many in the autism community promote alt-med and this is a common way that they phrase it when trying to seem more legitimate. But a casual reader might not realize that this phrase opens the door to donations being spent on “treatments” that are generally considered unproven or ineffective.

But keep reading the about page and towards the bottom of the page you find:

Our founders, board and volunteers have personal family experience with autism, and are deeply committed to ensuring that children are able to access the education and medical treatments they need to live healthy lives—as well as supporting organizations exploring the causes of and interventions for this epidemic.

So, yes, they are making it public that the money donated will not all go towards education. But consider further the phrase “supporting organizations exploring the causes of and interventions for this epidemic” sounds like the usual code in the autism parent community for “supporting research which tries to support the idea (failed idea) that vaccines cause autism”.

Two questions come to my mind when I read this. First, are they actually spending money on vaccines/autism research. Second, would they lose donors if this were made more clear in their public statements? Would, say, “Children with Autism Deserve Education and to be subjected to Alternative Medicine” get the same level of donations?

I am particularly suspicious of C.A.D.E. because I know that one of the board members is Jennifer Larson. Ms. Larson is prominent in the “autism is a vaccine epidemic” and the alternative medicine communities. She owns at least two businesses that provide alternative medical services (the Holland Center and Minnesota Hyperbaric). She donated $40k to former congressional representative and committee chairman Darryl Issa. At that time he was hosting hearings on vaccines and autism. She also founded the tiny Minnesota based “Canary Party“.An early version of the Canary Party’s website states:

American children are over vaccinated and over medicated, over fed, undernourished and have record levels of chronic illness and developmental delay.

Emphasis added.

We can get more information from the public tax records. The most recent tax year for which I can get records (tax forms for charities are public record) is 2017. Here’s their tax form for 2017. More specifically, here’s the schedule O for 2017. Schedule O is where charities list “grants and similar amounts paid”. It’s where you can find a lot about where they are spending their money, aside from operating expenses and salaries and the like.

Let’s take a look at the schedule O entries sorted largest grant to smallest:

First we have “family assistance for medical and therapy paid directly to the provider”. Said provider is the Holland Biomedical Clinic. And they note that the Holland Biomedical Clinic is owned by a board member. Which appears to be Jennifer Larson. The Holland Center provides both ABA (which can be considered educational) and alternative medical (biomedical) treatment. This entry specifically says “Holland Biomedical Clinic”. So my guess is that this wasn’t for ABA. To my knowledge, the Holland Center is a for profit business, not another charity.

This was the largest grant given out this year by C.A.D.E.: $15,282.

Next we have a grant for $10,000 to Ken Stoller, M.D. as “Family assistance for medical and therapy paid directly to provider”. Ken Stoller is well known in the alt-med and anti-vaccine communities. It seems odd to me that the amount is an even $10,000. Odd as in, did the the bills for a family actually come out to an even $10k? Even more odd that a doctor in San Francisco is getting a grant I thought were for local families in Minnesota. The famous name alt-med autism doctors do get patients traveling to see them. We don’t know what medical services were purportedly provided for this grant, but it seems unlikely that he could provide something not available in Minnesota. So, the question in my mind was whether this was a specific grant for specific families, or was this some sort of general support for Dr. Stoller?

The next “family assistance for medical and therapy paid directly to the provider” is to the Lovaas Institute for $5,390. This would be on target for the C.A.D.E mission, as the Lovass Institute is a provider of ABA services.

Another “Family assistance for medical and therapy paid directly to provider” is to “Grantee Name: Minnesota Hyperbaric. Grantee relationship: none.” Amount was $4,000. Minnesota Hyperbaric is, I believe, a business owned by Jennifer Larson (board member of C.A.D.E.) and housed within the same Holland Center noted above. Which if true would make the “grantee relationship: none” statement a bit problematic.

There is a $3,000 entry for “family assistance for medical and therapy paid directly to the provider” where the provider is listed as “Laidas”. I can not find who “Laidas” may be. I wonder if this is somehow a misspelling for Lovaas?

Next is Autism Recovery Foundation. Two entries for $2,000 total. The Autism Recovery Foundation is primarily focused on ABA. Yes, there are those who oppose ABA, but this is, in my opinion, spending funds on education. Note that Jennifer Larson is on the board. These appear to be described elsewhere in the tax form as “DIRECT SUPPORT TO ORGANIZATIONS THAT HELP FUND EDUCATION AND AWARENESS OF TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR AUTISM.”

Another “family assistance for medical and therapy paid directly to the provider” grant was paid to James Neubrander, M.D. for $1,410. Dr. Neubrander is an alt-med practitioner in New Jersey.

By the way, take a moment and check out his website. Watch the images that flash by and read the messages. It’s not pleasant at all.

The New Bridge Clinic received a grant for “family assistance for medical and therapy paid directly to the provider” in the amount of $1,190. I believe that is this clinic, which is another provider of alternative medical treatments. This is not educational.

Lastly we have “family assistance” paying rent for a family in need. Paid directly to Chohan Properties. For $1,180. While not educational, I wouldn’t have a problem with this.

A quick summary of the grants which appear to me to be for alternative medicine providers:
Holland Biomedical: $15,282
Dr. Ken Stoller (California): $10,000
Minnesota Hyperbaric: $4,000
Dr. Neubrander (New Jersey): $1,410
New Bridge Clinic: $1,180.

The total for Schedule O is $43,452
The amount paid for alternative medical providers appears to me to be $31,882. Or about 72% of the total grants.

72%

I would be very unhappy were I donor and found that out. It’s not illegal. It is, in my opinion, misleading. I’d think an org named “Children with Education Deserve Education” would be spending my donations on, well, education.

All the above is just for tax year 2017, the most recent where the information is publicly available. What about the other years? I went through the tax forms I could find going back to 2010. Here’s a summary table:

Who are they giving money to? Here are the top 10 projects, by money committed, from what I can see:

1) $56,000: The Autism Treatment Foundation of Minnesota, which appears to be this organization. Jennifer Larson is currently on the board. This org supports ABA for autism, and would be considered on target for “education”. From what I could find this appears to be something like a lobbying organization.

2) $22,000: Generature Rescue. Widely considered an anti vaccine organization. I’m unaware of any education projects they’ve been involved in. They are mostly involved in promoting the failed idea that vaccines cause autism and also promoting alternative medicine for autism. However, it struck me that in 2010 Generation Rescue made a big ($100k) donation to Andrew Wakefield’s “Strategic Autism Initiative” (Mr.Wakefield was the top in Time Magazine’s list of research frauds). In my opinion the SAI was set up to provide support for Mr. Wakefield after his ouster from Thoughtful House. This raises the question in my mind–did C.A.D.E. send money to Generation Rescue as a way of providing funds to Mr. Wakefield? Jennifer Larson is a known supporter of Mr. Wakefield.

3) $19,678: University of Northern Iowa. researchers DeSoto and Hitlan at the University were prominent in the “vaccines cause autism” scene for a few years. The work was poor in my opinion. Prof. DeSoto lists $80k in grants from C.A.D.E. for “Study of Autism among Somali Immigrants in MPLS, MN Area.” Her vitae does not list any publications. There was great interest from the anti-vaccine community in the Minnesota Somali community. Besides apparently accomplishing nothing, this expense by C.A.D.E. appears to have nothing to do with education.

4) $15,282: Holland Biomedical Clinic. This is reportedly owned by Jennifer Larson. The clinic offers alternative medical approaches. An initial visit can run $995, and alternative medicine is rarely covered by insurance.

5) Autism Recovery Foundation. Same address as the Autism Treatment Foundation of Minnesota. ABA based. Would be on target for donations to “educational” orgs, in my option.

6) $12,102. Unnamed medical therapy. Unclear what this was spent on, although it’s a good guess it was alternative medicine.

7) $10,000. Autism Resource Network. Looks like it was a store (autismshop.com). Which had a leaning towards the failed “vaccines-cause-autism” idea.

8) $10,000: Dr. Ken Stoller. Discussed above. Dr. Stoller is well known in the anti-vaccine community. And is in California, not MN.

9) $9,380: The Holland Center. Discussed above. Business reportedly owned by Jennifer Larson. Largely ABA focused, but also houses the Holland Biomedical Clinic and Minnesota Hyperbaric. One of the entries was for iPads. Why they were distributed through Ms. Larson’s business rather than directly is unclear.

10) $7,661: iPad purchase. iPads are often used as alternative communication devices and otherwise educational devices by people with disabilities.

There are a lot of expenses above which, again, I wouldn’t be expecting on donating to a charity calling itself “Children with Autism Deserve Education”.

One last comment. Above you will find this quote from C.A.D.E.: “Since 2014, C.A.D.E. has provided more than $500,000 in financial support to families in Minnesota—helping kids reach their full potential to live healthy, happy, productive lives.” I find that hard to believe. I count about $112k spent on program expenses from 2014-2017. So unless they spent a lot more money in the past 2 years, $500,000 seems like much more money than they’ve spent. Perhaps I’m missing something in the tax documents. I’ll provide them below.

C.A.D.E. fundraises with a run (the Autism5k) and also golf events.

One last topic is interesting here. Here’s a copy of an older form they used to apply for their grants. The CADE Medical & Therapy Grant Application. They specify some interesting requirements:

“These grants are for CADE approved physicians & CADE approved therapy programs.”

“I understand that my child is required to follow the GF/CF diet or SCD diet for the 90-day grant period if the medical grant is awarded and the diet is recommended”.

“I understand that an approved Doctor will be assigned to my child and that I have no choice in this matter and cannot change the assigned doctor. This doctor will be a specially trained for autism. ”

“If you are chosen for the CADE Medical or Therapy grant, you agree to the following:” which includes: “Implement ASD diet such as GF/CF or SCD for the medical grant ” and “Document the child’s progress through a daily journal and pre and post photographs or a Flip video camera that will be provided if needed.”

First off, keep in mind that Jennifer Larson also helps run an organization called “HealthChoice.org”. Given that, I find the lack of choice in the above quote very ironic. You must follow a diet for 90 days. One must follow the doctor’s recommendation, even if one disagrees. The doctor is ” assigned to my child and that I have no choice in this matter and cannot change the assigned doctor”

Yeah, that’s health choice.

Second, they ask for a lot of information. Including one has to keep a log and take pictures/videos. I would be very worried if I were to see such an application that the org was thinking of some sort of study based on the kids going through the grant program. That would be highly unethical.

Under “Disclaimer” the application states:

If you are chosen for the CADE Medical or Therapy grant, you agree to the following:
• Implement ASD diet such as GF/CF or SCD for the medical grant
• Dropping out of the program once selected will make you liable for the following:
1. All postage costs
2. The fee(s) of 2(two) Medical visits (estimated at $750.00)
• Document the child’s progress through a daily journal and pre and post photographs or a Flip video camera that will be provided if needed. 

All dollars for therapy grants go directly to the provider.

So, where the application previously stated that a diet is required if “recommended”, here the parent is accepting that it they will implement a diet. And, let’s say you think the medical professional isn’t working out for your kid, and/or the diet isn’t helping (or is even bad) for your kid. You get to pay back $750. Remember, parents are selected based on need. So $750 (which by the language reads as though it could be assessed even if you didn’t actually go to one or both of the visits) is possibly enough to force a parent to keep his/her kid in the program.

And, as we saw above, sometimes the grants are paid to clinics run by one of C.A.D.E.’s leadership.

As I titled the article, I believe strongly in doing more to provide better educational opportunities for autistics. But after going through all the above research, I wouldn’t send any of my money to C.A.D.E.. Sadly, this makes me wary of most charities. Especially small charities where it’s unlikely that there is much oversight.

Below are the tax forms for years 2010 to 2017 if you wish to check for yourself. If you find any mistakes in what I reported above, please let me know.

CADE_2017
CADE_2016
CADE_2015
CADE_2014
CADE_2013
CADE_2012
CADE_2011
CADE_2010

By Matt Carey

Age of Autism financial documents, are they taking in less money?

16 May

A few years back the Age of Autism converted from a business to a nonprofit. That means we get some information on their financial status. As a nonprofit, their tax forms become public. Nonprofits file IRS form 990’s and those are hosted by various providers online.

The most recent informaiton we can get is for tax year 2018, according to this IRS website, the Age of Autism blog filed a “e-Postcard” instead of a form. Per the IRS this means they are receiving less than $50k in a year:

Organizations who have filed a 990-N (e-Postcard) annual electronic notice. Most small organizations that receive less than $50,000 fall into this category.

Here’s a screenshot from the IRS (click to enlarge):

So we don’t know how much they brought in, but it appears to be less than $50k. The thing is, the tax forms available for 2015 (here) and 2016 (here) showed AoA bringing in about $100k a year.

The natural questions are: is this drop in revenue real and, if so, why did it happen?

If one checks the Age of Autism blog today, one finds that there are three sponsors listed in a sidebar for the website. My recollection is that in the past sponsors paid about $15k per year. Here’s a screenshot, for some reason the actual icons for two of them don’t come through on my browser. (click to enlarge):

When I click on the icons I find that the three sponsors are (a) HealthChoice.org, (b) The Canary Party and (c) The Holland Center. HealthChoice and The Canary Party are, in my view, basically the same people. One listed as a political party and the other is a nonprofit. Both are run by Jennifer Larson and Mark Blaxill (Blaxill has been associated with the Age of Autism for many years). The Holland Center is a nonprofit run by Jennifer Larson, if memory serves.

Which is to say, the Age of Autism has basically one group of people sponsoring them.

Years back I once did a calculation of how much the Age of Autism brought in a year, and it worked out to about $100k/year, or a bit more. I’ll try to find that article. Back then they had more sponsors and also had advertisements

I checked some dates in the wayback machine (internet archive) and found that for the date I checked in 2016, AoA had 5 sponsors:

In

In 2015, they had 7 (some had larger icons, which may have meant higher paying sponsorship?):

Assuming $15k/year per sponsor, going from 7 to 3 sponsors could mean a loss of $60k in annual revenue.

Checking the wayback machine again, the ads were a significant source of revenue with this one type being $200/week. That seems like a lot more than I’d think they could pull in with ads.

I clicked a date in 2015 by random and there were 3 ads going on that day. That would mean possibly $600/week, $31,200/year.

One thing I find interesting in the list of sponsors is the lack of Generation Rescue as a sponsor. I recall that AoA started as the “Rescue Post“, “brought to you by Generation Rescue”. Perhaps Generation Rescue is supporting AoA in another way?

The tax forms tell us that Dan Olmsted was paid $26k in tax year 2015, and $39K in tax year 2016. Kim Rossi (then Kim Stagliano) has stated that she was hired by JB Handley (if memory serves) to work at the blog. A salary for her is not listed. There are entries for “contract services” in the amounts of $36k (2015) and $37,422 (2016). Some or all of that might have been to pay her for her efforts at the blog.

These are not high incomes. They are, however, incomes. People paid to, well, put out a junk blog that spreads misinformation about vaccines and stigmatizes autistics. Compared to my income from blogging (zero), these incomes are significant.

One must speculate as to why the Age of Autism blog may be losing revenue. My own speculations include:

1) Ad revenue down as blog lose traffic to Facebook and other social media.
2) Ad revenue down as even the credulous advertisers on AoA want less exposure to the clearly anti-vaccine message
3) Dan Olmsted, who passed away a few years ago, may just have been better at the business end. He could have been better at keeping sponsors and advertisers.
4) Some factionalization in the anti-vaccine/autism community. The current sponsors are all tied to Mark Blaxill, who is still listed as an editor of the Age of Autism blog.

There are probably other reasons, and it’s entirely possible the above reasons are minor or not applicable at all.

By Matt Carey

Over $20k in donations to Congressman Posey and now people expect another hearing

7 Feb

Remember a few years back when Representative Darrell Issa held autism hearings? One in 2012 and one in 2014. As chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he was apparently able to make that happen, even if he didn’t show up for the second hearing. It turned out that groups that promote the failed idea that vaccines caused an autism epidemic had done a fair bit of lobbying, including getting Andrew Wakefield (of all people) to meet with and dine with the one or more members of congress. And then there’s the fact that at least one activist in the vaccines-cause-autism cause had made rather significant ($40,000) donations to congressman Issa.

Even with the heavy lobbying and donations, neither Oversight hearing was quite what these groups wanted. The first only one of their advocates testified, and in the second hearing none. These lobbying groups did produce video clips of members of congress grilling members of the CDC, especially Congressman Posey reading questions and statements apparently prepared for him by these lobbyists. These video clips have been useful for these groups but, seriously, a full on congressional hearing to produce YouTube videos for the donors to the chairman? That’s the sort of wasted resources that Oversight is supposed to prevent, not create.

Last fall many of those pushing the idea of vaccine causation really wanted to use the leaks by CDC researcher William Thompson to get another congressional hearing. A hearing that would focus on vaccines (since the first two hearings held by Oversight did not). Or, to put it simply, one which could stay in their control. That didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean people have given up hope for a hearing.

It has become clear over the past year that whatever influence these lobbying groups had gained with Representative Issa, that influence had waned. The second Oversight hearing included no public representatives and Mr. Issa was not even present. Further, fundraising efforts no longer focus on Mr. Issa.

Attention has shifted to Mr. Posey, a representative from Florida. A fundraiser was held for Mr. Posey last year.

A recent story claims that a new hearing is in the works. This time in House Science Committee. Coincidentally, Mr. Posey sits on the Science Committee. Mr. Posey has been a friend to the vaccines-cause-autism groups for some time, and sat in on the Oversight hearings. Last year’s fundraiser was an interesting event for many reasons. First, Mr. Posey was in a very safe race, so he wasn’t really in need of donations to win. Second, the people putting on the fundraiser were mostly (if not all) from outside of the Congressman’s district. Third, one of the primary people organizing the fundraiser was the same person who had donated about $40,000 to Congressman Issa.

Let’s take a look again at the people listed as donors for that fundraiser:

Jennifer Larson of the Canary Party and Health Freedom
Sallie Bernard of Safeminds and Autism Speaks
JB Handley of Generation Rescue
Tony Lyons of Shy[sic] Horse Publishing
Barry Segal of Focus Autism
Mark Blaxill of the Canary Party and Health Freedom
Dr. Gary Kompothecras
Teri Costigan

I went to the Federal Elections Commission website and OpenSecrets.org and checked for donations from these individuals to Congressman Posey.

Jennifer Larson, 3 donations for $5200 total in 2014

Sallie Bernard, $1000

JB Handley, $1000

Barry Segal, $2600

Mark Blaxill $5000

Gary Kompothecras and his wife, $5200

If Terri Costigan is Theresa Costigan, then here’s another $1000

I did not find donations from Mr. Lyons

That’s about $21,000.

Of course there could be more donations other than the people advertised before the event. For example, there are also two donations from a Mary Lang, totaling $5000. There is a Mary Lang from the same city who runs an autism school and who has spoken at the AutismOne parent convention (AutismOne promotes heavily the idea that autism and vaccines are linked).

If those donations are also part of this fundraising effort, that would bring the total accounted for so far to $26,000.

If you go to the story that is claiming a hearing is in the works, it does appear to be still in the “wishful thinking” stage. The article doesn’t give any recent quotes from Mr. Thompson and quotes a staffer for Congressman Posey as stating “We’re working with the Science Committee to get a hearing”.

Representative Posey is on the Science Committee and the Subcommittee on Oversight. And people interested in a Congressional hearing organized a fundraising event for the representative in an election year where he was an almost sure win. And collected over $20,000 in that event.

Are the fundraiser and hopes for a hearing connected? Or is it just a coincidence that people flew from all over the U.S. to attend a fundraiser dinner in Florida and later push for a hearing in that same Representative’s committee? Decide for yourself. I don’t see it as coincidence.

I find a few more points worth noting. First, Generation Rescue and the Age of Autism blog put out a call for people to show support for Representative Posey. The donation link given states that:

Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer for each individual who contributions exceed $200 in an election cycle

Records available on FEC.gov and OpenSecrets.org show donations as small as $25 per individual.

I don’t see a large influx of donations in the record for Mr. Posey. I don’t see donations from, say Jenny (Jennifer) McCarthy of Generation Rescue nor Candace McDonald, executive director for GR. I don’t see donations from the bloggers at the Age of Autism. Perhaps I missed them or perhaps they were too small to be recorded. Or perhaps there just wasn’t a large turnout. There isn’t a large number of donors from out of state around the time of the Age of Autism call. Out of state donors would indicate that a nationwide call had an effect.

I also didn’t see any indication that many people showed up for the fundraiser outside of the group noted in the pre-event publicity.

The last point I find interesting is this: Congressman Posey is still not a member of the Congressional Autism Caucus. Nor have I seen him act as a strong supporter of autism related legislation.


By Matt Carey

Is Autism Speaks supporting vaccine-autism causation proponent Congressman Bill Posey?

19 Aug

Someone forwarded an email from the “Autism Action Network” recently. The email asked people to support Congressman Bill Posey’s election campaign by attending a fundraiser. Looks like a few big donors to Mr. Posey were going to attend, including Sallie Bernard of SafeMinds and Autism Speaks. Ms. Bernard certainly is with both organizations, but I wonder if she was attending as an Autism Speaks officer or if Autism Speaks was even aware that their name was being used to promote the fundraiser.

Perhaps Ms. Bernard wasn’t aware that her Autism Speaks affiliation was being used this way. I’ve seen some of my affiliations used where I didn’t expect nor want them. Perhaps Ms. Bernard was aware that the AS affiliation was being used in this advertisement, but Autism Speaks wasn’t. Perhaps Autism Speaks was aware and supported this effort. I’m not betting heavily on that last option though.

Here’s the list of donors for the fundraiser in the email I got:

Jennifer Larson of the Canary Party and Health Freedom
Sallie Bernard of Safeminds and Autism Speaks
JB Handley of Generation Rescue
Tony Lyons of Shy[sic] Horse Publishing
Barry Segal of Focus Autism
Mark Blaxill of the Canary Party and Health Freedom
Dr. Gary Kompothecras
Teri Costigan

The Autism Speaks name adds a legitimacy to this fundraiser that the other groups just can’t. The Canary Party and Health Freedom (which I assume to be Americans for Health Choice) are basically the same people with “Canary Party” as a political party and “heath freedom” as a charity. The Canary Party/Health Freedom team is led by the same people who funded large donations to Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chair Daryl Issa ($40k plus). JB Handley is not as vocal as he once was, but he founded Generation Rescue on the notion that “autism is just a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning“. Sky Horse publishing is boutique publisher of many of the books on vaccines and autism, including “Age of Autism” and books by Andrew Wakefield. Barry Segal (Focus Autism) has been a large supporter of groups like Generation Rescue, the Age of Autism, SafeMinds and is very vocal on his belief that vaccines cause not only autism, but many other health problems as well. Gary Kompothecras has been funding Mr. Posey for years and is an autism parent and benefactor of groups promoting the vaccine/autism idea.

Without Autism Speaks’ name added to this, this would be very clearly all about a small but wealthy group of people pushing the failed ideas of vaccines and autism. People with failed and damaging ideas have the right to lobby members of congress along with everyone else. I, for one, am glad that the vast majority of Congress has moved on from the vaccine/autism-epidemic idea. I look forward to the day when that majority reaches 100%.


By Matt Carey

More Canary Party financial documents

1 Aug

The Canary Party is a tiny organization focused on promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism. They have branched out some with GMOs and “health freedom”, but their core seems to be the failed idea that vaccines cause autism. I’ve previously posted some of their financial documents (here and here)

Here are finance disclosure forms for
2011
2012
2013
2014

They took in
$72,018.66 in 2011
$48,748.95 in 2012
$17,425.00 in 2013
$6,275.00 reported as of June 2014

they had about $3,100 on hand as of June 2014. Where before they had some large donors and a number of small donors, so far this year all donations have been from Canary Party officer Jennifer Larson.

In previous years, they had thousands of dollars in expenses for stays at the Hyatt/Ritz and Hyatt/Four Seasons, this year they have two modest travel expenses totaling under $1000.

No parties gatherings are listed this year like their $11,000 convention in 2012.

They’ve become less transparent in their expenses. In 2013 they list $4,500 as “Dues and Membership Fees: Software” and $2,250 one month and $2050 another in “Other Services: Outside Services”. Some or all of that could be payments to blogger Ginger Taylor, who in 2011 and 2012 was paid $4,500 a month for parts of the year as “media consultant” and “Public Relations/Fundraising Service”. Hard to say, it’s not transparent.

It looks like this effort may keep moving along, self funded at a low level, for the foreseeable future. But as a major, grass-routes organization it seems to be failing.


By Matt Carey

Are congressmen Justin Amash and Rick Nolan being courted by the vaccine/autism community?

30 Jul

The groups promoting the idea that vaccines have caused an epidemic of autism have always been politically active. There’s been a resurgence in recent years, with the Canary Party and lobbying and donations and lobbying asking for congressional hearings on autism. When I got an email today from Generation Rescue (an organization promoting the idea that vaccinesasking me to donate to Congressman Bill Posey, I thought I’d take a new look at opensecrets.org and see what donations have been made lately.

Canary Party officer Jennifer Larson donates from her company (Vibrant Technologies). Another Canary Party officer is Mark Blaxill. Searching OpenSecrets for their names I find that they are (a) not donating to Darryl Issa (whom I’ll discuss below), (b) donating to Bill Posey and (c) have started donating to Justin Amash and Rick Nolan. Here are screen shots (click and click to enlarge):

larson

blaxill

And I haven’t checked to see who else is donating to these members of Congress.

Jennifer Larson recently donated $40,000 to Congressman Darryl Issa. Congressman Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. This same committee held hearings on autism, sadly wasting a lot of time on the Canary Party’s failed vaccine message. One of those hearings included Larson’s colleague at the Canary Party (Mark Blaxill) presenting testimony. Interestingly, Congressman Issa did not attend the second hearing by his own committee last year. And now the money is moving to other politicians.

Congressman Amash sits on the Committee for Government Oversight & Reform (the same one that held the hearings). But he was criticized by one of the vaccine/autism groups for arriving late and not asking questions in the recent hearing.

amash1

Rick Nolan is a member of the Congressional Autism Caucus.

Ms. Larson also has a $2,000 donation to congressional hopeful Tom Emmer (May 13, 2014).

Interestingly, Gary Kompothecras does not seem to be supporting Bill Posey this election. He has in the past (and here) and lives in the same state as Congressman Posey. Whether the lack of donations this election cycle represent some of the friction within the autism/vaccine community is unclear.

Donating to politicians is of course appropriate and legal. As is following money from special interest groups.

I hope these politicians do their own research. The vaccine/autism idea has caused a great deal of harm to the autism communities and to public health.


By Matt Carey

More Canary Party financial documents

2 Mar

The Canary Party grew out of the “vaccines caused an autism epidemic” movement. It’s a small group based in Minnesota. They bill themselves as:

The Canary Party is a movement created to stand up for the victims of medical injury, environmental toxins and industrial foods by restoring balance to our free and civil society and empowering consumers to make health and nutrition decisions that promote wellness.

Last July I wrote about their financial documents in Financial documents for the Canary Party. In that article I made the incorrect statement: “The Canary Party is not a charity, so they do not file form 990′s with the IRS.”

It turns out that they do file form 990. I can’t find them on Guidestar (perhaps because they are new?), but I found this one online. It’s for 2011, when the party formed.

When I wrote last July about the Canary Party, I noted that the financial statements on the Minnesota State Websites indicated that in their founding year (2011) they were largely funded by donations from Canary Party members/officers/founders Jennifer Larson ($40,665) and Mark Blaxill ($15,000).

The form 990 linked to above was an amended form, filed in July of 2013. Coincidentally, filed 10 days after my article about their financials. Per that amended IRS tax form for 2011, those amounts were not donations but loans.

The description of the organization’s mission is given as:

The time has come for a change. The mounting crisis in the health of children and other vulnerable groups has not only been ignored by medical authorities, it has been suppressed. As parents, citizens and advocates for the health of future generations, we must rise up to call attention to this crisis and take action to end it. In nominally democratic societies, which sadly are increasingly corrupted by the power of entrenched interests and economy of influence that surrounds the medical industrial complex, we can most effectively effect change by mobilizing for political action in order to take action against these corrupt forces. It is time to come together to form the Canary Party.

There’s another description as well, but you get the point. It’s a bit much, in my view, but not really out of line with their statements since.

At the time I wrote my previous article, it looked like the revenue to the Canary Party was decreasing. I wrote, “The Canary Party pulled in $72,000 in 2011 and $49,000 in 2012.” (at the time I didn’t know that a large part of the 2011 cash might be from loans). I noted that in 2012 a large fraction of their revenue came from a single donor, one Barry Segal, who apparently has since become disaffected with the Canary Party. I noted:

Per another comment posted to Respectful Insolence, the association between the Canary Party and Mr. Barry Segal appears to be strained. As Mr. Segal accounted for $30,000 of the party’s $49,000 revenue in 2012, one does wonder what 2013 revenue will look like.

Well, from the State of Minnesota site, here is the 2013 financial report on the Canary Party.

The Canary Party took in $17,245 in 2013. Of that, $15,000 was from Mr. Segal on January 2nd. The Canary Party started the year with $15,562.14 and, after $32,300.02 in expenses, ended the year with $687.12 in the bank.

To recap revenue in the last three years:

2011: $72,000 (of which $55,665 may have been in the form of loans)
2012: $49,000
2013: $17,245

Year-end assets

2011: $9,259.07
2012: $15,694.19
2013: $687.12

In other words: revenues and assets are way down. One does wonder how long the Canary Party will last, given these trends.

I find redefining the initial donations as loans to be very interesting. I don’t see evidence that the Canary Party paid back any portion of the loans in 2013. And, given their financial status, I don’t see the possibility of paying back the loans as highly likely. I do have a speculation as to why they might redefine the donations as loans, but I’ll hold off on that for now.

edit to add: here’s the part of the form 990 where they state that they are correcting the original to classify the contributions from the board members as loans.

CP Form 990


By Matt Carey

Yes, that $29,800 donation is going to Congressman Issa too

15 Sep

I recently wrote about what appears to be another hearing by the U.S. congress’ Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. If the internet chatter is to be believed, this hearing will be on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. I also noted that internet chatter was pointing to $40,000 in donations made by one Jennifer Larson to the chair of the Oversight Committee. I could find $40,000 in donations from Ms. Larson this year, but I didn’t see the direct connection of the bulk of that amount ($29,800) to Congressman Issa. As I stated in One year and $40,000 later and another hearing:

I found a total of $40,000 donations to Congressman Issa, his PAC and the Republican National Committee though Ms. Larson and her company Vibrant Technologies (click to enlarge):

Larson-OpenSecrets

The bulk went to the Republican National Committee. I’d love to see what, if any, arrangements the RNC has to support Issa with those funds.

Well, I found out about the donation to the Republican National Committee. The Federal Elections Commission shows that that $29,800 donation was earmarked: JFC ATTRIB: DARRELL ISSA VICTORY FUND

larson RNC

Looks to this observer like those funds are going to support Congressman Issa through the “Darrell Issa Victory Fund“.

So we have funds donated to

Invest in a Strong and Secure America ($5,000) Darryll Issa’s political action committee.

Two donations of $2,600 to Darryll Issa directly

and $29,800 to the Republican National Committee, apparently to be used by the Darryll Issa Victory Fund.

As noted by frequent commenter lilady, Congressman Issa appeared at the AutismOne parent convention this year.

By Matt Carey

One year and $40,000 later and another hearing

14 Sep

Last year the U.S. Congress’ Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held a hearing. The buzz on the web was that this prompted by lobbying by people and groups who promote the idea that vaccines have caused the rise in autism diagnoses. In other words, the hearing was supposed to be a hearkening back to the “good old days” when the Committee under Dan Burton held hearings promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism. Instead, the hearing became “1 in 88 Children: A Look Into the Federal Response to Rising Rates of Autism“. The hearing originally did not include autistic representation but, after a phone/fax/email campaign, that changed. Ari Ne’eman of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Michael John Carley of GRASP were invited to speak. The Committee then were presented with the false dichotomy of “Parents who believe in the vaccine epidemic” vs. “Autistics who don’t and want a focus on improving the lives of autistics”. Also a long session where Members of Congress berated government public health employees.

All in all a waste of my tax dollars, if you ask me.

The people who lobbied for the hearing apparently were not pleased with various aspects of the hearing.

The buzz has been building that another hearing is in the works. We were told that $40,000 had been donated the Political Action Committee (PAC) for the chair of the Oversight committee, Darryl Issa. The original source for that information (Patrick “Tim” Bolen) is far (far, far, far) from reliable. Also, there are limits on campaign donations and it seemed unlikely to me that $40k could be donated to his PAC. But, with the chatter rising on the hearing to the point that people are claiming it is scheduled for November, I thought I’d check.

The donations were reported to have been made from Jennifer Larson, who is with the tiny “Canary Party”. Tax documents indicate that Ms. Larson is a large financial backer of the Canary Party. Searching for what donations Ms. Larson has made (using OpenSecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics) I found a total of $40,000 donations to Congressman Issa, his PAC and the Republican National Committee though Ms. Larson and her company Vibrant Technologies (click to enlarge):

Larson-OpenSecrets

The bulk went to the Republican National Committee. I’d love to see what, if any, arrangements the RNC has to support Issa with those funds. If you think that the $10,200 given directly to ISSA and his PAC is not enough to get noticed, keep in mind that this is the 5th highest amount given to the Congressman this year (click to enlarge):

vibrant

Ms. Larson is quoted in a press release:

“We are thrilled that Rep. Darrell Issa will be holding a second round of vaccine hearings this fall in the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to examine just what is happening in the VICP,” said Canary Party President Jennifer Larson. “We are eager for Congress and the American people to see just how far the program has strayed from what it was intended to be when Congress put it in place in the 1980s. It has failed families and become nothing more than a tool to protect vaccine makers and cover government malfeasance in the vaccine program, to the detriment of countless children.”

Notice that the first hearing has been redefined. It wan’t about autism. I suspect in her view it never was. And that is sad. Last year’s hearing and the proposed hearing this year are about vaccines.

Last year’s hearing was preceded by donations from Gary Kompothecras (a Florida chiropractor) to Congressman Issa. Mr. Kompothecras was pictured at the hearing. If internet reports are to be believed, it appears that Mr. Kompothecras is part of the groups that split after the hearing last year. He has not donated this year to Congressman Issa or others on the committee. He and his wife did donate last year, about the time that it was reported that Congressman Issa agreed to hold the hearing.

If the buzz is correct, a hearing will be held soon. It won’t be about autism (and, thus, parents can be in the spotlight without sharing it with those inconvenient autistics). But, as we’ve seen, last year’s hearing wasn’t about autism either, right?

Did last year’s hearing have any impact on the lives of autistics? Can I say that my kid will have a better future because of that hearing? No. Absolutely not. Has congressman Issa joined the Congresional Autism Caucus? No. Has he sponsored or supported autism-relevant legislation? No. We have three bills, stalled in committee, one of which is a vaccine-study bill. None have his support.

And this year’s hearing will be even less relevant.

By Matt Carey