Violence Policy Center (VPC) considers itself to be an influential player in
promoting gun control policies which will ostensibly make the public safer:
Each year, the VPC releases hard-hitting, fact-based studies on a full range
of gun violence issues. Recognizing the VPC’s groundbreaking research
and unique expertise, VPC staff are frequently quoted by the national
news media and relied upon by policymakers. The VPC also works with
national, state, and local advocacy organizations representing affected
constituencies—such as women, children, minorities, consumers, and
public health practitioners—to keep our neighborhoods, homes, schools,
and workplaces safe from gun violence.1
The question is: Does Violence Policy Center actually represent the public’s
One way to determine if an organization has true public support is to see if they
garner a certain amount of membership dues. For example, if an organization’s total
annual revenues is $1 million and $750,000 of that came from membership dues, then
one can reasonably conclude that since dues represent 75% of revenue, the organization
represents part of the public. Further, if annual dues are $25, then the organization has
about 30,000 members. Such organizations exist to enable groups of like-minded
individuals of average wealth to pool their resources, in order to create greater influence
with policy makers; a democratic aspect of our First Amendment rights, which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Philanthropic Research has a web site named GuideStar, which contains tax
returns for many non-profit organizations.2 A basic (free) member of GuideStar can
access the 2003-2005 tax returns of Violence Policy Center.3 Examining these tax forms
highlights some interesting trends.
In 2003, VPC reported $1,671,595 in total revenues. The seven top employees,
including Executive Director Josh Sugarman and Legislative Director Kristen Rand,
earned $654,514, or 39.2% of total revenue.
In 2004, VPC replaced two of its highest-paid employees with one lower-paid
employee. In 2003, Mathew Nosanchuk earned $129,218 in salary in benefits, and Joseph
Sudbay earned $94,102. In 2004, replacement Fiona Harris earned $53,290 in total
compensation. Nevertheless, the top five employees received 45.8% of total revenue,
because total revenue dropped 41.4% from the 2003 amount.
In 2005, revenue dropped again for a total decrease of 53.7% from 2003, so the
same top five employees received 59.6% of total revenues in salary and benefits. This
means that between 2003 and 2005 a handful of people saw their piece of the pie grow
In the beginning of this section, the concept of public support was in part defined
by evidence of membership dues being paid to an organization that claims to promote
beneficial public policies. Violence Policy Center’s tax returns included a section entitled
“Schedule A, Part IV-A: Support Schedule.” It includes a line item for membership fees.
For the years 2000 through 2004, the total membership fees received was $0.
Propaganda Arm for Elitist, Anti-Rights Money?
As revenues decreased, both Sugarman’s and Rand’s salaries increased 5.9% to
reflect the inflation index. But because revenues decreased, these two top earners––each
of whom earned $132,894 in salary and $3,987 in benefits––went from 15.5% of total
revenue in 2003 to 35.4% in 2005, more than doubling their slice of the pie. Having just
two employees taking home over one-third of total revenue may not be a long-term
success strategy for a normal business, but it works when normal profitability concerns
don’t exist. To understand the financial circumstances of VPC, one must understand their
definition of “public support,” which accounted for 85-90% of VPC’s total revenue. And
to understand VPC’s “public support,” one must understand the Joyce Foundation,
because VPC’s main “public donor” is the Joyce Foundation.
At the Joyce Foundation site, selecting “Gun Violence” on their “Grant List” page
displays a roster of Who’s Who in gun control: e.g. Violence Policy Center, Mayors Fund
to Advance New York City, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. Joyce
Foundation spent $6,650,865 on gun control research in 2005 and 2006.4 By comparison,
the entire gun rights industry contributed a total of $1,291,050 for the two-year 2006
An examination of the Joyce Foundation’s 2005 financial statement shows no line
item for membership dues or individual contributions. Their income is derived from
investments: e.g. stocks, bonds, and real estate.6 The seed money for their grants came
from Beatrice Joyce Kean in the 1970s, when she left the Foundation over $100 million.7
In 2003, of the $1,507,016 in “public support” received by VPC, $500,000, or
33.2%, came from the Joyce Foundation. In 2004, VPC received another $500,000 from
the Joyce Foundation, but due to decreases from other sources of “public support,” the
Foundation’s share rose to 60.1%. In 2005, as revenues decreased again, the Joyce
Foundation chipped in another $450,000, increasing their share of VPC’s “public
support” to 68.1%. In just three years, the Joyce Foundation more than doubled its share
of VPC’s “public support” and nearly doubled its share of VPC’s total revenues from
29.9% in 2003 to 58.2% in 2005.
With an increasing share of financial support despite overall decreasing revenue,
it stands to reason that the Violence Policy Center is the public mouthpiece of the Joyce
Foundation’s agenda regarding your gun rights. It is also clear that their agenda
represents the wishes of a few well-paid VPC employees and the Joyce Foundation’s
board of directors. This is undemocratic.
About the Author
Howard Nemerov is a columnist for Texas State Rifle Association’s TSRA
Sportsman and “unofficial” investigative analyst for NRA News. He can be reached at
HNemerov [at sign] Netvista.net.
1 About the Violence Policy Center, copyright © 2006. http://www.vpc.org/aboutvpc.htm
2 GuideStar, Philanthropic Research, Inc. http://www.guidestar.org/
3 Internal Revenue Service Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax.
4 Joyce Foundation, Grant List. http://www.joycefdn....st/Default.aspx
5 Open Secrets, Gun Rights: Long-Term Contributions, The Center for Responsive
6 Joyce Foundation, Financial Statements 2005.
7 The Joyce Foundation, About Us. http://www.joycefdn....Us/History.aspx