Illiterate Reports from Multi-Million Dollar EDF

by Paul Chesser, Heartland Institute Correspondent on June 5, 2009

Take a look at the Environmental Defense Fund’s last two IRS tax returns, Form 990s, available from the nonprofit archiver Guidestar (subscription required). You can see from clips that in fiscal year ending September 2007 (PDF) the group took in more than $85 million in total revenue (with $23.7 million spent on global warming initiatives), and in 2008 (PDF) EDF received almost $123 million in revenue ($34.8 million spent on global warming initiatives).

You’d think with these massive resources that this litigative behemoth could put together a reasonably legible report to the IRS, but you’d be wrong. If you read EDF’s 2007 and 2008 statements of primary exempt purpose and program service accomplishments, you find that they deliver the information in a manner that is the bane of every grade school english teacher’s existence: in one long, multiple-page run-on sentence. In fact, it’s not even a run-on sentence — it’s a mish-mash of comments and claims about accomplishments that is almost completely devoid of punctuation. And it has no paragraph breaks.

Clearly EDF does not want anybody to read what they’ve been up to, whether it’s people like me who scrutinize people like them, or IRS agents. I can just picture some poor bureaucrat who reviews these things all day long, taking a look at their juvenile reporting and saying “Forget it!” Instead the IRS ought to send back their 990s and say, “We expect better. Do it over.”

Chief Financial Officer Peter Accinno, who almost certainly earns in the same six-figure salary neighborhood as his fellow EDF executives, should be embarrassed for signing off on such an unprofessional report.

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