In a recent blog post on his “Christian Fighter Pilot” blog, Air Force safety officer Maj. Jonathan C. Dowty (yeah, the Christian “fighter pilot” is actually a safety officer) displayed his crack (as in he must be smoking crack) investigative “skills” in yet another attempt to raise suspicions about the finances of Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).
I suppose that at this point in his Air Force career, with any prospect of future promotion into the highest ranks looking extremely unlikely, it would make sense for Maj. Dowty to be honing his “journalism” skills for a potential post-military career in the fact-challenged right wing media.
Why do Maj. Dowty’s prospects for a brilliant future in the military look dim? Well, after about six years as a major, he was selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel, but he was not selected to attend Senior Developmental Education at the same time. What does that mean? According to a source who knows about these things:
“When officers are selected for promotion to Lt Col, the top 10% to 15% of selectees are also identified to attend Senior Developmental Education (SDE), which consists of the possibility of going to one of several service war colleges or special fellowships. Virtually ALL of those chosen to attend SDE that attend these schools will be promoted to full colonel a few years down the road and the next generation of general officers are also chosen from this pool. If an officer is NOT chosen to attend SDE, then their chances of making full colonel drop to less than half (depending on the promotion/personnel environment) and their chances of eventually making general officer are virtually zero — they are not ‘players.’”
So, rest assured, there is never going to be a General Jonathan “Christian Fighter Pilot” Dowty.
Additionally, Major Dowty was made a safety officer a few years ago, which, from what I’ve been told by reliable source type people I know, is basically a slap in the face for a fighter pilot. He did not get a position at the Air Force Academy, which, according to emails obtained by MRFF through a FOIA request, was what he wanted.
In a 2011 email to an instructor at the Air Force Academy, Maj. Dowty, who was then still in a fighter-pilot-related job, working at the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, wrote:
“Do you have any insight into possible openings for either the test slot or just a line instructor?
“All else being equal I suspect I’ll end up at Eglin barring other possibilities.
“Hope your family is doing well; I’ve got three kids now (who only know Edwards, interestingly). We’ve been enjoying the life here, though moving on will be nice too.”
And end up at Eglin Air Force Base he did (which is a good thing because we have a contact there who can keep an eye on him). So, Maj. Dowty now does his countless hours of obsessively blogging about Mikey Weinstein from a nice little house he bought at 543 John King Road in nearby Crestview, Florida, where he currently resides with his wife Beth and those three kids of his.
One of Maj. Dowty’s regular activities is to scrutinize MRFF’s tax returns (I guess everybody needs a hobby). He then attempts to make the information on these returns appear highly suspicious via one of his scare-quote-laden blog posts.
The latest of these posts, titled “Mikey Weinstein, the MRFF, and MIBON Consulting,” differs little from his many similar previous posts. The good “Christian Safety Officer” makes his usual accusation that Mikey Weinstein is getting rich off the the donations to MRFF, and implies that there is something suspicious about my employment by MRFF.
Maj. Dowty opens his post by saying:
“Michael “Mikey” Weinstein sometimes tries to make the MRFF — the group he created and runs — seem bigger than just him, citing the number of people associated with his “charity.” However, he quietly admits to the IRS the MRFF has only a single employee — Mikey Weinstein. That admission seems to contradict claims by others, like Chris Rodda, who say they work for the MRFF.”
Yes, he is actually implying that I don’t really work for MRFF. And what is the basis of this suspicion-casting assertion? I get paid as a contractor. When I started working for MRFF almost seven years ago, it was to do research for some specific projects and I was hired as a contractor. Those projects led to a permanent job with the foundation, but we just never changed the way I was paid. There is nothing at all wrong with this, of course, but Maj. Dowty somehow manages to make it sound terribly suspicious in his next paragraph:
“Normally, personnel costs are not considered “program expenses” in IRS lingo (program expenses are “those incurred while performing its tax-exempt activities”). However, that seems to be how Weinstein framed payment for Rodda’s services. Rodda once admitted the MRFF “Research” expense line item — about $25,000 — was her annual pay (though she has faded from the MRFF scene in the past year or so). Presumably, the legal explanation is Weinstein treats her as a kind of independent contractor, rather than technically an employee. The characterization of the use of that $25K on “research” — or Rodda — is not something a potential donor would know if Chris Rodda hadn’t spoken out of school.”
I once “admitted” that I was paid as a contractor? Seriously? And how did this big “admission” come about? Maj. Dowty asserted in one of his many previous MRFF-bashing posts that I didn’t really work for MRFF because I wasn’t listed as an employee on the foundation’s tax return, so I said in a comment on that post that the line item for research on the return was what I was paid. That’s it — my big “admission” — I do research for MRFF and MRFF pays me for it and reports it on its tax returns as research expenses! Stop the presses! We’ve got a scandal!
And I’ve “faded from the MRFF scene in the past year or so?” Really? Someone needs to tell Mikey that so he’ll stop calling me all the time and bugging me to do stuff for MRFF!
But enough about me. Let’s get to the gist of Maj. Dowty’s accusations about MRFF’s tax return. And let’s have some fun with this by comparing what Maj. Dowty claims to be suspicious about MRFF’s tax return to what appears on a recent tax return from the Officers’ Christian Fellowship, an organization to which Maj. Dowty himself belongs.
Maj. Dowty big claim is that that MRFF’s personnel expenses are an excessive percentage of its total expenses compared to what are listed as direct program expenses.
Maj. Dowty has determined that 73% of MRFF’s expenses would be classified as personnel expenses. He arrives at this 73% figure by adding up every expense that he doesn’t consider to be a direct program expense — Mikey’s salary, research (a.k.a. my pay), accounting, support, and consulting.
So, how does Maj. Dowty’s own organization, the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF), fare when you look at their tax return using the suspicion-casting methods of Maj. Dowty.
Well, right off the bat, you’ll see that a whopping 54% of OCF’s total expenses are personnel expenses. According to OCF’s 2012 tax return, their total expenses were $3,992,890, of which $2,139,351 were personnel costs. And $1,600,069, or 75% of all of OCF’s personnel costs (including things like pension plans and other benefits) were listed as “program service expenses,” in the same way that MRFF lists certain personnel costs as “program service expenses.”
Then there are all the other things that the OCF lists as “program service expenses” — the same types of expenses that MRFF and every other non-profit lists. These are a few of OCF’s other expenses listed as “program service expenses”:
Office Expenses: $424,666
Depreciation, depletion, amortization: $310,090
Other Service Fees: $67,570
Investment Management Service Fees: $5,791
Yes, that’s over $1,200,000 in operating and other expenses that the OCF lists as “program service expenses,” and that’s not even all of them!
So, what’s our tally for OCF’s personnel and the “program services” expenses listed above? $3,339,371 — over 83% of its total expenses –10% more than MRFF’s similarly listed expenses!
What does the OCF — an organization that Maj. Dowty has belonged to since way back when he was a cadet at the Air Force Academy — spend on its actual “ministry” expenses? A mere $133,417. Yep, according to its tax return, this “ministry” only spends about 3% of its total expenses on its stated charitable function of being a ministry!
So, why isn’t Maj. Dowty questioning the OCF’s highly suspicious expenditures? Inquiring minds want to know!
MRFF has many other questions about Maj. Jonathan “Christian Safety Officer” Dowty, but we’ll get to those in future posts.