If you watch Mike Rinder’s blog carefully, you can see Scientology imploding on almost a daily basis. Over the last few years, we’ve also provided plenty of evidence that Scientology is shrinking as it stumbles from one crisis to another.
But what’s been fascinating to watch is that as many longtime members flee, and as the new buildings turn out to be as empty as the old ones, there’s still one thing that Scientology never seems to run out of…
Top former church officials tell us that Scientology leader David Miscavige can always count on a relatively small number of wealthy donors who write check after check to keep Scientology’s funding topped up. We tend to call these people the “whales” of Scientology, people who turn over millions to help keep Scientology afloat. The rest of the (dwindling) membership is also under intense pressure to donate money, repeatedly, throughout the year. And those infusions of money — in combination with tax exempt status and paying Sea Org workers pennies an hour — keeps Scientology swimming in dough.
Keeping the whales happy and turning over ever-increasing amounts is perhaps David Miscavige’s most important job. And if you’ve ever wondered why Scientology goes to such lengths to produce slick advertisements and put them all over the place, and put on lavish events and other extravagant displays of (gaudy) excess, you can bet that it has something to do with convincing the whales that Scientology is putting their checks to good use.
So who are these church fat cats? Each year, they celebrate their status at the annual gala of the International Association of Scientologists. This time it happened in November in Clearwater, Florida (it had previously been held in England). And the fat cats got to stand next to trophies for photographs. Those photos were then published in Impact magazine a couple of months ago, and we finally got around to getting them together for you.
We’re just going to show you the cream of the crop, and we want to make sure you understand how “status” works in the IAS. Your level is cumulative. So over your career in the church, you might have given $50,000 to the IAS (as well as other donations to the Super Power Building, your local Ideal Org, and a dozen of other initiatives). This gives you the status of “Patron,” and you’ll hold that status as long as you remain a member in good standing. But all Scientologists are under pressure to donate more and make the next status level.
In 2006, the IAS published a list of these top status levels, and how much you had to have donated over your career in order to qualify…
Patron with Honors: $100,000
Patron Meritorious: $250,000
Silver Meritorious: $500,000
Gold Meritorious: $1,000,000
Platinum Meritorious: $2,500,000
Diamond Meritorious: $5,000,000
Patron Laureate: $10,000,000
A few years later, some additional levels were added, but no dollar amounts were listed. (Scientology had apparently figured out that everything they published ended up on the Internet or something.) The new, even higher levels…
By extension, you would expect that if they went even higher, the next couple of levels would be Platinum Maximus, and Diamond Maximus. Also, at every level, you can also earn the additional tag “with Honors,” which means that you have given a bit more on the way to the next plateau, or something.
Now, we’ve taken a stab at estimating what these higher statuses might stand for, using a conservative progression that is much less steep than the ones we already know about. Here’s our guesstimate:
Platinum Laureate — $12 million
Diamond Laureate — $15 million
Patron Excalibur — $20 million
Platinum Excalibur — $22 million
Diamond Excalibur — $25 million
Patron Maximus — $30 million
Platinum Maximus — $35 million
Diamond Maximus — $40 million
So who’s giving such huge amounts to Scientology? Let’s start with the Platinum Meritorious folks, the ones who have given at least $2.5 million. (And again, keep in mind that these are donations only for the IAS — all of these folks would have been hit up for many other kinds of donations.)
Dave and Liz Rolfe — Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)
Dave appears to run a business called Cellular Management Corp in Naples, Florida, and calls himself a “multi-level marketing coach.”
Steve and Jennifer Anderson — Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)
Jeff and Amy Putney (left) and Scott Sparkman — Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)
Rudy Kalab and his daughter Claire — Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)
Rudy is a Melbourne Scientologist who appears to be in the demolition industry.
Grant and Elena Cardone — Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)
The Cardones have provided us with all sorts of fascinating entertainment over the last couple of years.
Roberto and Barbara Santos (left) and Claire and Buz Taylor — Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)
The Agami clan — Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)
Howard Glazer and Ellie Bolger — Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)
Shuki Mizrahi — Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)
The next set of folks are listed as Platinum Meritorious ‘with Honors,’ so we’re going to assume they gave a little more — maybe $3 million in total.
Richard and Karin Beaty and their son Ryan — Platinum Meritorious with Honors ($3 million)
Alessandro, Gianfranco, and Marilena Baggio — Platinum Meritorious with Honors ($3 million)
Larry and Madeline Lowe — Platinum Meritorious with Honors ($3 million)
Marian and Betka Kapusta and family — Platinum Meritorious with Honors ($3 million)
Judith and Pilar Saldarriaga — Platinum Meritorious with Honors ($3 million)
Yuko Nara — Platinum Meritorious with Honors ($3 million)
Now we move on to “Diamond Meritorious” — which the church’s own publication indicated meant a total donation of $5 million…
Noor and Ali Shawkat — Diamond Meritorious ($5 million)
The Wilson family of Los Angeles are listed as Diamond Meritorious ‘with Honors,’ so we’ll assume they gave around $6 million.
David and Bonita Wilson and family — Diamond Meritorious with Honors ($6 million)
The Jensens top out the old list of levels, Patron Laureate, which Scientology’s own brochure indicated a donation of $10 million…
Craig and Sally Jensen — Patron Laureate ($10 million)
Now, for the true leviathans of the whale class, we’re off the top of the known chart, so we have to guess a little. For “Platinum Laureate with Honors” we’ll assume $13 million.
Sheila and Alan Atkinson-Baker — Platinum Laureate with Honors ($13 million)
Alan is the CEO of Atkinson-Baker Inc., a company that provides court reporters all around the country.
And for Scientology’s biggest donor, we really had to do some guesstimating. As you could see from our previous list, we came up with $40 million for Diamond Maximus, and maybe another 2 million for “with Honors”?
Bob Duggan and family — Diamond Maximus with Honors ($42 million)
Again, we’re doing our best to estimate these numbers based on the progression published in Scientology’s own 2006 brochure. Duggan might have given less, but he also might given much more.
As Bloomberg magazine reported last year, Duggan became a billionaire when a pharmaceutical company he owns hit the jackpot with a new cancer drug showing great promise in trials.
Besides funding the IAS, Duggan also helped Scientology purchase the Freewinds in 1987, and he’s given generously to Miscavige’s Ideal Org program.
But Duggan’s largesse is well known. What surprised us was that some familiar faces weren’t shown among the other whales, big donors who showed up in past years.
Where’s Michael Bayback, for example, who had reached Patron Laureate level ($10 million). And Earthlink founder Sky Dayton, who had previously showed up as Platinum Meritorious ($2.5 million)? Not to mention Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, who famously turned over $10 million in one go several years ago.
We’re not sure why they didn’t get their photos taken next to those nifty statues. But you can be sure that everyone listed here is already under intense pressure to make their next level, and Miscavige must have an entire committee to dream up what comes next for Duggan after “Diamond Maximus.”
If you know something about these folks, tell us about it in the comments, and we’ll add to the post when we have the time.
UPDATE: Mike Rinder, former Scientology spokesman, explains why we’re only seeing some of the top ‘whales’ in these photos: “I can tell you why no photos of Bayback, Cartwright etc. These shots were of those who had increased their status and made it to the event. It’s a big deal for these people to have their names in lights and especially photographed with their ever larger bowling trophies. Bayback either didn’t up his status or he didn’t show up for the event. Same for anyone else not pictured (and there are others for sure).”
Sara Goldberg this morning on GMA
Keep an eye on Good Morning America this morning. Let’s see how the program deals with the complexities of Sara Goldberg’s story, told so well by Joe Childs of the Tampa Bay Times. And will Joe get a cameo?
ABC Entertainment News
Posted by Tony Ortega on March 17, 2014 at 07:00
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