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]

BMOrg Speaks to Address Community Concerns

Will Chase, BMOrg’s Minister of Propaganda, has made a statement in response to the community’s concerns about Commodification Camps. He wants us to know that he’s listening. And he told his bosses the right folks about our concerns.

From burningman.com:

Will Chase, Burning Man's Minister of Propaganda

Will Chase, Burning Man’s Minister of Propaganda

Hey everybody, THANK YOU for these comments. I really do appreciate it. My intention for this post was to bring some facts into the discussion that I’d seen some people missing, and to see and hear what people were thinking and feeling. And you made your thoughts very clear, and we’re listening.

Like I said, part of my job is to keep my finger on the pulse of the community, and this conversation is part of that. I needed to hear exactly this input. This is great information and perspective to bring into our discussions about this issue, and they’re being read by everybody involved. So again, thank you.

I absolutely take your point about conflating the issue of virgins with turnkey camps … that wasn’t my intention, but since they often come up in the same conversation (XYZ people are screwing up Burning Man! We should keep them out!), I thought it made sense to combine them here. In retrospect, I should’ve broken the two topics out into different posts. My bad.

The big takeaway I’ve gotten here (and shared with the right folks at BMHQ) is that you’re a) not happy, and b) wanting to hear solid facts, answers and transparency with regard to Burning Man’s policies around turnkey camps. And I can tell you that’s in the works — we’re processing a number of moving parts here.

Lastly, I stand by what I wrote here. I believe deeply in the 10 Principles (I have kinda made it my life’s work), and I don’t want (and refuse) to see them eroded. And that includes Radical Inclusion. This stuff isn’t easy, but I believe we can work together as a community to solve this problem.

Thanks again. Pulse taken.

What about the one question the community really wants answered:




Yet again, they pretend this question doesn’t even exist. Apparently, we only want solid facts and transparency about Burning Man’s turnkey camps policy. Ummm, no. How about you start calling them Commodification Camps – that would be a step in the right direction. It would make it seem like you are not only “listening”, but actually hearing. We already know the policy: it’s to place Commodification Camps on K Street, scalp them all the tickets they want for $650, and if they’re not participating, chide them in the hope that they’ll do better next time. And, pretend it’s not even a problem, since there’s a broad spectrum of Turkey camps, and at the same time there were only 25 Turkey camps…and only a very small number of those were “doing it wrong”.

Only yesterday, they told us:

We’ve received more than 400 post-event emails and hundreds of comments through the Feedback form

Was the content of these hundreds of emails and comments really so different from the 100-odd comments they’ve got on their blog in the last couple of days? Is this really all unexpected news to the guy whose job is to have his finger on the pulse of the community’s concerns? He didn’t know, but we told him, and he told the right folks, and they’re listening, so now they know?

More likely, they realized their feeble attempts to misdirect our attention away from the story, re-define the problem as a “spectrum” and “hardly noticeable”, and put their typical corporate PR spin on it weren’t working.

Solid facts, answers to the community’s questions, and transparency shouldn’t be something that only comes out of this “non-profit” when the community is assembled at their gates ready to riot, with pitchforks and flaming torches. Forget the Tin Principles, honesty, openness and integrity should be the fundamental essence of everything they do. Not just because that’s a “nice to have”: as a 501(c)3 public benefit corporation, they’re actually required by law to operate with a high standard of ethics. As well as the law, it’s on Article and Page 6-9 of their Bylaws.

Burning Man ended nearly 2 months ago. Their “community feedback” process ended more than 2 weeks ago. Sure, 400 emails is a lot, but one person can read that many in a day. And if they’re all saying the same thing, the message isn’t that hard to distill and report up the chain of command to the masters.

Once again, transparency from BMOrg is…”coming soon”.

If you’re against Commodification Camps, you might want to check out this petition. So far in our poll, it is literally the 1% that support them. A third agree with me that they should be allowed if they have a public participation area, and a majority two thirds say No.