Jay Sekulow’s Christian Right Cash Cow


We’ve known for years that Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice has been making himself fabulously rich by shamelessly exploiting the fears of the credulous, but just how rich will probably blow your mind.

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.


The two non-profits are Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (CASE) and the ACLJ. He has full control of CASE and is chief counsel for the ACLJ (his son Jordan is the executive director).

Among the payments since 1998:

$15.4 million to the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group, a law firm co-owned by Jay Sekulow. According to the 2009 tax form, he owns 50 percent of CLAG. The firm was known as the Center for Law and Justice when it received some of the payments.

$5.7 million to Gary Sekulow, Jay Sekulow’s brother. He is paid for two full-time jobs — as CFO of both the American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, and Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, or CASE. In 2009, his combined compensation topped $600,000.

$2.74 million in private jet lease payments to Regency Productions, a company owned by Jay Sekulow, and PFMS, a company owned by his sister-in-law, Kim Sekulow.

$1.78 million to Regency Productions for leasing office space and media production.

$1.11 million to PFMS for administrative and media buying services.

$1.6 million to Pam Sekulow, Jay Sekulow’s wife, including a $245,000 loan from CASE, which she used to purchase a home from the charity. The balance of the loan was later forgiven over several years and reported on the 990s as income.

$681,911 to Jay Sekulow’s sons, Logan and Jordan, for media work and other duties at CASE.

Nice work if you can get it.

But Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a charity watchdog group, said there’s a problem when a charity’s board is dominated by family members.

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.”

John Whitehead, founder of the conservative Rutherford Institute, a Christian civil rights charity founded in 1982, was more blunt about Sekulow, whose work he has followed for years.

When Christian charities become successful, he said, they can lose sight of the ethics of their faith, which include handling money with care. Six-figure salaries and perks like a private jet clash with Christian ideals about charity.

“If you read the New Testament, the founder of Christianity said, ‘I have no place to lay my head,’ ” Whitehead said. “I am aghast at modern evangelism and the money.”

The IRS requires nonprofits to disclose the compensation of their leaders.

Whitehead earned $162,452 in fiscal year 2009, according to Rutherford’s tax return. Alan Sears, head of the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group that took in $35 million that year, earned $368,833 in total compensation. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, made $350,232.

But the ACLJ reports on its official documents that Jay Sekulow has taken no salary since 2002. Of course, he doesn’t have to take a salary; it’s all paid to his law firm. And here’s the best part:

In a phone call, Ronn Torossian, a public relations executive serving as ACLJ’s spokesman, portrayed Sekulow as a great lawyer getting by on modest pay.

“You are asking about one of the most successful lawyers in the country whose income is very small and owns a very small home,” he said.

Property records show Jay and Pam Sekulow own three homes, including one they bought in 2008 in Franklin for $655,000 and another in Norfolk, Va., bought in 2005 for $690,000. Their third home, which once belonged to CASE, is in Waynesville, N.C., and is assessed at $262,800, according to Haywood County, N.C., tax records.

On Planet Wingnuttia, three big homes = one very small home.

Comments

  1. Aquaria says

    Although I understand that, even if an attorney gets too low an award to cover his billing in some courts, that they can bill their hours to the government for reimbursement. I have a feeling he does a lot of this.

    If that’s the cause, I’d be curious to see what state or federal governments have paid him–and what he’s billed them for.

  2. Dr X says

    In fairness, they’re spending a great deal of their own money on a major project to widen the Eye of the Needle.

  3. naturalcynic says

    What’s sad is that they get so much money from saps to do this sort of thing.

    Actually I’m kinda glad. Look at the bright side. If the saps sent their money to a more effective organization, we would be worse off.

  4. Mr Ed says

    What’s sad is that they get so much money from saps to do this sort of thing.

    Some where P.T. Barnum is smiling.

  5. John Hinkle says

    John Whitehead, founder of the conservative Rutherford Institute…was more blunt about Sekulow:

    When Christian charities become successful, he said, they can lose sight of the ethics of their faith, which include handling money with care. Six-figure salaries and perks like a private jet clash with Christian ideals about charity.

    Methinks this might be some good ol’ fashioned Christian jealousy?

  6. bigjohn756 says

    It’s a lot of money, but, you must realize that houses are very expensive in some areas. My brother paid $550,000 for a 1500 square foot house in the Chicago suburbs.

  7. says

    Actually, the ACLJ is effective. They’re often wrong, of course, but they generally do very good legal work. And Sekulow is a brilliant attorney. And it should be said that they’ve also done some good work. Sekulow’s career in this field began when he represented Jews for Jesus in a First Amendment case and he was right. He also handled the Lamb’s Chapel case, where he was also right. And the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in both cases. He’s done important work in some free speech cases. Unfortunately, he’s also done a lot of really appalling work on similar issues, like against the Park 51 mosque.

  8. says

    I received a phone call soliciting money from the ACLJ to combat “those atheists that want to take the words ‘Under God’ out of the pledge of allegiance.” I enjoyed informing the person calling that I was actually an atheist myself and wondered if she had contact information to donate to the other side.

  9. Ben P says

    Although I understand that, even if an attorney gets too low an award to cover his billing in some courts, that they can bill their hours to the government for reimbursement. I have a feeling he does a lot of this.

    If that’s the cause, I’d be curious to see what state or federal governments have paid him–and what he’s billed them for.

    there are very rarely situations when this can occur, but I doubt that’s the case here.

    What’s much more common and what you’re probably thinking of is that attorney fee awards can be sought in civil rights cases under Sec. 1983. If the government is a defendant, and you’re entitled to attorneys fees, you can possibly recover attorneys fees from the government.

    What judges will allow as far as attorney’s fee awards is often much lower than what an attorney might like, so contingency fee awards are still the rule in a lot of civil rights cases.

    However, suppose you take a first amendment or freedom of religion case with minimal damages and win. You won’t recover much from a fee, and your client probably wasn’t paying you hourly, but you can petition for an award of attorneys fees and the court will ask you to submit evidence regarding it, usually do an hourly rate type calcualtion, and make an award.

  10. Midnight Rambler says

    It’s a lot of money, but, you must realize that houses are very expensive in some areas. My brother paid $550,000 for a 1500 square foot house in the Chicago suburbs.

    That was my thought as well – while he does have three houses, for the amount he got paid, it doesn’t seem like they’re very big. The median price in Norfolk is fairly low, around $250k, but it’s not outrageous.

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