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Is Andrew Wakefield’s Strategic Autism Initiative failing?

3 Mar

When Andrew Wakefield left Thoughtful House he set up a charity, the Strategic Autism Initiative.  Interestingly even now, years after it was founded, it appears to have no website or Facebook page.  What it does have is tax forms because every charity must make those public.   Last year when I looked these tax forms, a few points became apparent.  Most of the money the SAI had taken in (58%) had gone to salaries, with the lion’s share of that going to Mr. Wakefield himself.  In 2012 more money was spent on salaries that was taken in.  SAI appears to have two employees, Andrew Wakefield and Terri Arranga.  Here are the contributions to the SAI, Mr. Wakefield’s salary and Ms. Arranga’s salary for the years 2010, 2011, 2012.

SAI contributions and salaries

And here are the tax forms:

Strategic Autism Initiative 2010 tax form
Strategic Autism Initiative 2011 tax form
Strategic Autism Initiative 2012 tax form

It is worth noting that the SAI was formed towards the end of 2010, hence the low salaries for that year.

Donations were down dramatically from 2011 to 2012 leaving one to wonder: what would 2013 bring?  Did the downward trend continue? Well, here’s the 2013 tax form:

Strategic Autism Initiative 2013 tax form.

Gross receipts: $50,498, down from $113,501 for tax year 2012.  A drop of over 50%.  The SAI ran a deficit of $97,514, nearly twice what they took in.  Mr. Wakefield took no salary, Teri Arranga only $5,000.  The SAI only had $21,396 in assets at the end of the year.

In short: the SAI appears to be failing. OK, in terms of benefit to the autism communities, the SAI has continually failed.

SAI 2013 form 990

Below are the “program service accomplishments” for the SAI in 2012 and 2013.  Program services are the heart of what a charity is doing.  Well, a standard charity.  That said, ignore the money amounts listed and tell me if you can see any difference in the text.  It looks to me like they copy and pasted the accomplishments from 2012 into 2013.  If I wrote the same accomplishments one year to the next, my management would likely let me go for accomplishing nothing in a year.

SAI 2012 program services SAI 2013 program services

This tax form–the most recent one available–is from 2013.  We will have to wait for the 2014 form but if this trend continued, the SAI is either failing or has failed as an organization.

By Matt Carey

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A look at the financials for Generation Rescue and the Strategic Autism Initiative

15 Feb

Generation Rescue is a well known charity with a focus on alternative therapies for autism and promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism. The Strategic Autism Initiative was formed by Andrew Wakefield after he left Thoughtful House (now the Johnson Center). Many of these organizations have close ties and, in fact, GR helped SAI get started with a $100k grant its first year.

The most recent tax forms are from 2011 and are below:

Generation Rescue IRS form 990Strategic Autism Initiative IRS form 990

Generation Rescue pulls in a great deal of money, nearly $1.2M. Of which about $240k goes to the “rescue grant” program. About $125k goes to running their website. Another $125k to pay their executive director.

Under grants, Generation Rescue (GR) has two:

$25,000 to the Strategic Autism Initiative
$20,000 to Jackson State University

Both “for researching causes of autism”. We see again the link between GR and SAI. Jackson State is the institution engaged by Generation Rescue and the SAI to perform a vaccinated/unvaccinated study using homeschooled kids. I’ll point out that when I reviewed the GR and SAI tax forms last year, I speculated that they were starting to fund the vax/unvaxed study.

Now consider the SAI’s form 990. SAI pulled in $284k. They paid out $250k in salaries and other compensations. Yep, 88% of intake went to salaries. Luckily they had a bit of a war chest from the year before to draw on. But let’s look at those salaries. Andrew Wakefield is compensated $200k/year for a reported 30hours/week. That’s $270k/year (his salary at Thoughtful House). Terri Arranga ( of AutismOne) was paid $28.8k for reported 15hours/week.

But, as I said, they had a war chest from 2010 (due in big part to a $100k donation from GR). How did they spend that? Well, they appear to have a grant of $25k to Generation Rescue for “research related to the vax/unvax study”. Which strikes me odd as GR gave SAI $25k, so it looks like the money went in a circle.

That said, what expenses did SAI report?

$158k to Dr. “Lenys G. Gonzalez” to work with Arthur Krigsman and Stephen Walker on “molecular and clinical signatures of inflammatory bowel disease and adverse vaccine reactions in autistic children.”

Lenny Gonzalez is a researcher in Venezuela who was funded by Wakefield at Thoughtful House in one of the supposed “independent” replications of Wakefield’s findings. Arthur Krigsman is a former colleague at Thoughful House, with a colorful history. Stephen Walker’s name comes up periodically in regards to a study he presented at IMFAR but never published which supposedly confirmed Andrew Wakefield’s finding of measles virus in intestinal tissues of autistics.

$43k for a study on “vaccination status and health outcomes among homeschool children in the United States”, with Anthony Mawson of Jackson State. Mr. Mawson was named as the lead researcher for this project back when GR was seeking funding from money left over from a class action lawsuit to fund it.

$86k for an “IRB approved” (are the others not?) investigation using the Florida Medicaid database. And, no surprise, this is to look at vaccines. (1) acute adverse reactions to vaccines as predictors of neurodevelopmental disorders and (2) age of vaccination and risk of adverse outcome.

I am curious if the Florida project is the same one the Geiers were attempting to get pushed through approval a few years ago. A t that time a vaccine-causation focused chiropractor and heavy political donor was pushing both access to the Florida medical records and for things like changing a bill to improve access to services for families with autistic children into a vaccine bill.

Many people might be wondering how Andrew Wakefield managed to gather half a million dollars in under two years. I can’t say for sure but I can put out some information for speculation.

One of his board members is Elizabeth Avellan. She also serves on the board for Mr. Wakefield’s “Autism Trust”, which lists her accomplishments as including ” highly successful film producer and co owner of Trouble Maker studios “. Troublemaker Studios has the “Spy Kids” franchise.

Another board member is Phil Rawlins. There was a Phil Rawlins in Austin who owned a soccer team. He has since moved to Florida.

So whatever skills he had, Mr. Wakefield is basically now a fundraiser. He’s good at it, you gotta hand it to him. I can think of a lot of ways that money could be better spent, though.


By Matt Carey

Financials for Andrew Wakefield’s Strategic Autism Initiative

15 Mar

Non profit organizations in the United States have to file tax forms and those become part of the public record. After leaving Thoughtful House, Andrew Wakefield formed a non-profit called the “Strategic Autism Initiative” (SAI). That was in 2010. The tax forms (form 990) don’t become public right away, so the form for 2010 has been only recently made available, and is available here.

Since the SAI was formed in 2010, we don’t know how much of the year they were paying salaries (for example).

They pulled in $226,000. We know $100k was from Generation Rescue from their form 990.

Wakefield was paid $16,667. But we don’t know for how many months. SAI was formed in 2010, so it is a partial salary. He claims 30 hours/week.

Assume the $16,667 is one month’s salary. That works out to $200k/year at 30 hr/week. That’s the equivalent of nearly $270k for a full-time (40 hour per week) which was his salary at TH before he was let go.

They had three research projects listed. Two seem to be the same–the “Somali project”. They have someone in the UK and someone in Minnesota. They spent about $30k on this project, which is supposed to include prevalence studies in Somalia.

They had three research projects listed. Two seem to be the same–the “Somali project”. They have someone in the UK and someone in Minnesota working on this. They spent about $30k in each location on this project, which is supposed to include prevalence studies in Somalia.

As to the people involved with the SAI:

Andrew Wakefield is president
James Moody is VP
Terri Arranga is secretary
Mark Blaxill is treasurer
Polly Tommy is director
Phil Rawlins is director

Only Wakefield and Arranga are paid (Arranga was paid $2,400 in 2010, listed as putting in 15 hours/week)

They spent $5K in legal fees. $25k in advertising.

It will be interesting to read the 2011 form 990 when that is available. For one thing, this will give salary information for a full year. Also to see how well they do collecting donations. $250k is impressive for a first year. As already noted, $100k is from Generation Rescue. How much of the rest is really just a transfer from other vaccines-caused-an-autism-epidemic orgs is unknown.