Unlikely Leader in Transparency

Image: The Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron (via LA Times)

Image: The Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron (via LA Times)

Philanthropy.com has an article “Burning Man Becomes Unlikely Leader in Financial Transparency“. It proves what I learned studying accounting in college: professors don’t know what they’re talking about.

This guest post from our reader A Balanced Perspective is commentary on that article.


Might you have viewed the next article of utter PR rubbish, penned by Assoc. Prof. Mittendorf, of Ohio State University, within the Chronicle of Philanthropy of Burning Man Becomes Unlikely Leader in Financial Transparency? Assoc. Prof. Mittendorf misses numerous items of much importance:

a) The important financials, of the owned subsidiary corporation, Black Rock City LLC, dba Burning Man, the Burning Man event, are hidden from donors of art, labour, cash, and stock. The 990 form of 2013, of the Project, does not include the financials of the BRC LLC.

b) Prof. Mittendorf misses of that Burning Man is a crowd sourced event, much information is owed towards the awesome Burners whom provide the entertainment, the EDM sound camps, the Esplanade camps, the mutant vehicle owners, the artists, and the numerous volunteers, none of whom are paid from the $31.5 million of ticket sales for their labours.

c) Prof. Mittendorf misses of the numerous millions, hidden from donors, paid towards the pockets of the six prior owners of the BRC LLC, prior of their honourable donation of the BRC LLC to the Burning Man Project.There is $4 million missing from their accounting, within the Afterburn Reports, of each year of 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, a sum of $16 million. Might any person desire to dispute of this, please state of the rationale of why the payroll raised from $2.8 million within 2009, to $7.2 million within 2010, with solely 30 employees, and contractors and consultants upon other lines within the ledger, and temporary labourers paid little cash. Where is the missing $4 million of cash, within the payroll line upon the ledger, might the cash not have been directed towards the pockets of the six prior owners of the BRC LLC in the manner of salaries and benefits paid towards them?

d) The payments for the Burning Man(TM) name and trademarks, owned by Decommodification LLC, of which, it is owned by the six prior owners of the BRC LLC. There is a contract, hidden from donors, stating the amount of cash to be paid to them, within 2018. In addendum, what is the deduction upon tax levies that is to be permitted towards them, within 2018, upon this?

e) Images of the art at Burning Man is owned, in parts, by the BRC LLC and Decommodification LLC. The photographers pay a licence fee upon publication of the images, zero dollars of the cash of the licence fees, is paid towards the awesome artists. Whom takes the cash towards their pockets, the BRC LLC, or Decommodification LLC? Whom is taking cash from movies in the manner of Spark A Burning Man Story, and what occurs with this within 2018?

f) The information stated with the 990 form of the project might have been stated near to one year prior of when the information was finally released within January 2015.

g) Larry, within his role of Chief Philosophical Officer of the Project, evaluates, and proposes towards the Project board, many ventures, some ventures of which might be joint ventures. The conflicts of interests are stated towards the Project board, but the conflicts of interests are hidden from donors.

h) An audit was completed, within the prior month, upon the financials of the Burning Man Project, and upon the BRC LLC, upon the years of 2013 and 2014, thus the financials are signed by the auditors, in addendum to being signed by the Burning Man Project. The Project board is of the power to vote to publish the detailed 2014 income statement and 2014 balance sheet, of both the Project, and of the BRC LLC subsidiary corporation, at the present time, in place of hiding the financials, from donors, for near to yet another year upon the release of the 990 form of 2014 within January 2016. Burning Man requires this transparency of all regionals, to publish their ledgers of when the ledgers are signed, it is most hypocritical of the BMOrg to hide this information from donors for near to yet another year.

i) Prof. Mittendorf compares of Burning Man, a crowd sourced event which has had many changes within the ownership structure within the prior brace of years, to the big Red Cross, and other organizations, whom have operated for numerous years; his comparison is utter rubbish.

j) Prof. Mittendorf misses of the outage, of the Burner community, upon his statement of ‘ … has also played out in astounding ways, such as billionaires spending their fortunes to create elaborate tents featuring top chefs and sleek models being paid to provide entertainment.’

j) Prof. Mittendorf misses of how little cash is paid, from the $31.5 million of ticket sales, towards the crowd whom sources the Burning Man event. My belief is of the BMOrg owes transparency, and cash, in support of their efforts and labours. Of the $390, or $450, or $800 of the cash paid towards each ticket, solely

– EDM sound camps – $0 in addendum, they must buy their own tickets. It might be most fair might the BMOrg gift several thousand free tickets, towards them, towards the camps whom provide entertainment, and towards mutant vehicle owners, in support of their efforts and labours.
– Esplanade camps, and other camps whom provide entertainment – $0 in addendum, they must buy their own tickets
– Mutant Vehicle owners – $0 in addendum, they must buy their own tickets
– Artists – $13 within 2014, lower within 2015. Art grants are for solely near to one third of their costs, $0 for labour, and are solely for a small number of artists whom sign a most horrible hidden contract
– DPW labourers, whom construct the city – near to $10, many are not paid
– Gate labourers – near to $3 for food, their tickets, might they have laboured for numerous hours the prior year, are not counted within the paid population cap of near to 70,000 of Black Rock City, thus are not paid from ticket sales.
– BRC Rangers – near to $3 for food, their tickets, might they have laboured for numerous hours the prior year, are not counted within the paid population cap of near to 70,000 of Black Rock City

My belief is of Prof. Mittendorf must retract his rubbish PR article upon transparency in due of his utter cluelessness upon these matters.

[Read the original article at philanthropy.com]

25 comments on “Unlikely Leader in Transparency

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  8. I penned this as a quick comment upon the rubbish of the BMOrg, the Burning Man Organization, or, in other terms, the few people in near to total control over the 501(c)3 non profit Burning Man Project, the for profit subsidiary corporation Black Rock City LLC, owning the Burning Man event, and owners of their private corporation, Decommodification LLC, owning the Burning Man(TM) trademarks and other IP. Their donation of the BRC LLC to the Project, at the end of 2013, was most honourable, and, by appearance, by prior statements, they have a contract to sell the trademarks to the Project within 2018 for a lower amount than the trademarks are worth, taking a big deduction upon tax levies for the difference.

    But, their claims of transparency is far from a truthful claim. The difficulties are in due of the awesome Burner community makes the Burning Man event in a bottoms up, crowd sourced manner, and the BMOrg has treated the Burner community in a most horrible manner. The BMOrg has taken many millions towards their pockets, while stating to the artists, temple builders, construction labour, and many others whom give mutant vehicles, entertainment, and much more ‘we do not have the cash to pay you in a fair manner’, all the while not being transparent in regards of the financials. They have hidden, in an active manner, Where Your Ticket Money Goes.

    In addendum, in place of utilizing the ticket distribution in a manner purposed to build the community, in the manner of many of the awesome regional events organizers, they distribute the tickets away from the community. Within 2011, they stated the donation of the BRC LLC to the Project was purposed to gift the Burning Man event back to the Burner community, but, they did a Bait and Switch, remaining in near to total control, and stating towards the Burner community ‘If you do not like this, leave’, your petitions of redress of grievances fall upon deaf ears, as in the manners shown in regards of the Commodification camps, artist contract, their failure of paying, in a fair manner, the DPW labourers and the costs of the artists, and in many other manners.

    My belief is the seventeen member Burning Man Project board of directors must fulfill their responsibilities to place this rubbish under control for the benefit of the Project and the awesome Burner community. My belief is their first step must be to vote to publish the signed and audited 2014 income statement and balance sheet of the Project, and of the BRC LLC subsidiary corporation, in the manner of transparency they require of all regional events.

    • The 2013 and 2014 financial information has been audited and is now signed.

      Megan Miller, the Burning Man PR person, stated to the Reno Gazette-Journal, of that Burning Man could not release more information in due of they were undergoing an audit upon their 2013 and 2014 financial information, within the article ‘Tax Docs: Burning Man Founders Sold Festival for $276K’ on 29 January 2015, but, at present, this article is 404 on the Reno Gazette-Journal site. This is not normal, what occurred?

        • I just read the RGJ article, and although it asks a few poignant questions, it never attempts to answer them. It quickly devolved into a Flavor-Aid swilling joke. I was wondering why the quotations stopped, but the BMP PR yarn kept on spinning. Journalism FAIL.

      • After this post, and the article by the Reno Gazette Journal, was linked within the comments to the PR article on philanthropy.com, all comments were deleted. I will email philanthropy.com and request future comments not be deleted.

        At the least, the RGJ is making attempts towards. utilizing their terms, ‘watchdog coverage’, in the place of their prior solely Flavour Aid coverage. Penned within the RGJ article deleted from the comments upon the philosophy.com article:

        ‘Burning Man released its most recently filed tax documents, revealing the $7.3 million net worth of the umbrella nonprofit.

        None of the documents, however, sheds light on the revenue pulled in by the annual festival held in the Black Rock Desert in early fall. Nor do they share salaries of the founding members.

        “It is definitely incomplete information,” said Megan Miller, communications director for Burning Man Project.

        While all of the information required from the Internal Revenue Service is in the documents, Miller said, Burning Man cannot yet disclose revenue information from this past year’s festival, nor the one prior since the organization currently is undergoing an outside audit for 2013 and 2014.

        All of this missing information that Burners have been seeking should be available before this year’s end, Miller said.’

    • ‘Larry, within his role of Chief Philosophical Officer of the Project, evaluates, and proposes towards the Project board, many ventures, some ventures of which might be joint ventures.’

      Buried within the Burning Man Project bylaws, upon their website, pages 7-29 and 7-30, 8:30 and Decommodification: Philosophy Committee.

      ’04. Proposals for new projects may, and proposals for new programs and ventures (joint ventures, subsidiaries, and the like), must be evaluated by the Philosophy Committee for consistency with the Ten Principles of Burning Man. The Philosophy Committee itself may initiate proposals for new projects, programs, or ventures. …’ Whom might have been of the belief of a Philosophy Committee might have such powers? I am curious of what projects, programs, subsidiaries, ventures, or joint ventures might Larry have proposed towards the Project board?

  9. ABP, don’t miss the comments on the article. He is not fooling anyone who would know the difference. The latest comment there:

    “Liz • 3 hours ago

    As a planned giving and major gifts officer for a mid-level nonprofit (budget of $25 million), I have some serious issues with the numbers on the BM Form 990 and won’t be making any donations to *the section of their business* that they turned into a 501c3. There is significant for-profit money being made by those working closest with the event, you can take that to the bank.”

    I suspect she would welcome the details in your critique.

  10. It goes to show that The Ohio State Univ-shitty faculty are just as moronic and idiotic as the student population.

  11. “We have just learned of the excellent article by Prof. Mittendorf, of Ohio State University, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, ‘Burning Man Becomes Unlikely Leader in Financial Transparency.’ Glad to see that our efforts at being honest, misread by some, are appreciated by scholars.”

    Which means: Damn, it worked! …What a putz. Can we order color reprints yet? Tell Jimmy the Prof earned his place in the camp this year! BTW, let’s be sure not to hire anyone from Ohio State.

    • Well, I came close. Just read JRS:

      “Oh! And while we don’t like to pat ourselves on the back, screw it, we’re gonna pat ourselves on the back, because philanthropy.com did — calling Burning Man Project the unlikely leader in financial transparency. Ha! So there!”

      • Your first attempt was so good that I actually searched for JRS thinking I had missed it. I guess BMOrg thinks that rather than opening the books, all they need to do is get a friendly Kool Aid drinking professor to write a crappy article and hey presto! They’re transparent! And of course we know how much they really don’t like patting themselves on the back.

        • Sorry. I should have attributed my quote as my speculation. (That’s my new way of playing Burn Tickets 4.0, since I did not do the profile thing… or did i?… 😉 ) Of course the real thing was far more self-serving. I am going to work on that. However, the more accurate I am the more I might seem to be exaggerating.

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