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When Tom Cruise was one of Scientology’s biggest donors: A look back

CruiseLauerKaren de la Carriere and Jeffrey Augustine shared a fun piece of history with us, and we thought you might be interested in seeing it. It’s a page from a 2005 copy of Impact magazine, the publication Scientology uses to name and congratulate its biggest donors.

In more recent years, the top donors are off the charts with huge amounts in the tens of millions of dollars, and they tend to be business types (especially the Duggan family) or Venezuelans, for some reason.

But in 2005, a couple of celebrities were listed among the biggest givers: Tom Cruise and Leah Remini.

The timing makes sense. As we’ve explained previously, Cruise was away from Scientology for much of the time he was married to Nicole Kidman, but then after the couple split in 2001, church official Marty Rathbun was tasked with auditing Tom into the most gung-ho Scientologist possible. By 2004, he’d succeeded, and Scientology leader David Miscavige rewarded Tom at the October International Association of Scientologists (IAS) gala in England with his Freedom Medal of Valor in a ceremony that featured a 35-minute video tribute to the actor (and if you’ve seen Alex Gibney’s movie Going Clear, this should all sound familiar). Tom then took his zeal public, with a disastrous 2005 War of the Worlds publicity campaign which included professions of his love for Katie Holmes (with leaps on Oprah’s couch) and a disturbing interview with Matt Lauer. And Tom also showed his new dedication by donating large amounts to the IAS so that he attained a new cumulative “status” — Platinum Meritorious.

According to Scientology’s own publications, that means Tom had, up to that point, given a total of $2.5 million to the IAS. And that’s separate from what he would have given, since he began taking classes in 1986, for course fees, auditing intensives, security-check bills, and plenty of other costs associated with stays at the Flag Land Base for processing. He may also have donated to other causes and campaigns separate from the IAS. But here’s published proof, at least, of his largesse in one area.

Meanwhile, Leah Remini and her husband Angelo Pagan attained the level of Gold Meritorious, which means up to that point they had given at least $1 million to the IAS.


Again, the timing is interesting. It was the next year, in 2006, when Leah attended the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in a castle outside Rome. There, she became aware that Tom’s best man, Miscavige, was there without his wife, Shelly, and when Leah asked about it, she was told by Tommy Davis “You don’t have the fucking rank to ask about Shelly.” Leah went back to her hotel after the event and, with the help of a friend in Los Angeles, wrote and submitted a report, dropping a dime on the leader of the church himself, Miscavige, for being too friendly with his female assistant with his wife nowhere to be seen.

As a result, Remini was ordered to Flag and was then subjected to sec-checking and the “Truth Rundown” until, after three months, she broke down and retracted her report. She was billed $300,000 for the experience. But it also put her on the road to leaving, which she did several years later, with news breaking about her departure in July 2013. A month later, she reported Shelly Miscavige missing to the LAPD. (The LAPD said Shelly was fine, and we know where she is anyway, even if she has been kept out of the public eye since about August 2005.) Despite that failed attempt to reach Shelly, and after a resurgence in her acting career, Leah continues to be a pain in the ass to Miscavige.

But in 2005, at least, she was still a gold-plated church member.

One more name jumped out at us: Richie Acunto. Here he’s listed as Gold Meritorious — the $1 million level — but just a few years later he dug deep into his insurance businesses so he could reach the $10 million level — Patron Laureate — but then soon went bankrupt and things apparently got so tight for him, his IAS trophies turned up in a storage space auction.

So Acunto crashed out of the limelight. Remini bolted. And Cruise no longer shows up on the lists of the biggest donors. Does that mean he’s no longer upping his status, or has he asked not to have his giving recognized in Scientology publications? A lot has changed since 2005, and the speed with which Scientology publications get dissected online is one of them.

Anyway, for now, here’s your look back to 2005…



FreedomCoverJun2015The new Freedom — where’s Jennifer?

We noticed that a new issue of Freedom magazine has been posted. When we notice a new issue, we head right for the editor’s letter, which is usually pretty entertaining as editor Jennifer Lankheim does her best to pretend that she’s not working for one of the most notorious propaganda organs that ever existed.

As we’ve explained in the past, Freedom is on a very different kind of kick. Its bombastic attacks on former members have been replaced with an earnestness that you have to see to believe. Scientology’s magazine now discusses the issues of the day! And this time, it’s taking on net neutrality! (Yes, Scientology, which is probably more famous than any other organization in the world for how it fought online freedom in the ‘net’s early years, is now trying to be taken seriously talking about the Internet’s future.)

This month, to our surprise, the lead editorial did not carry Jennifer Lankheim’s name, but was signed merely “The Editors.” Say what? Has Jennifer suddenly become shy about her work for the church? Well, we hope she’s fine. Imagine the money Scientology must be paying out to get actual journalists to write for the thing. Surely none of them want that gravy train to end.


VoiceTomTomorrowTom Tomorrow and your proprietor

Several folks noticed yesterday that we’ve added a detail to our July 14 appearance in Hartford, Connecticut at the Mark Twain House. We’re going to be in conversation about our book with Tom Tomorrow, the famous alternative cartoonist.

How did we manage that, people are wondering. Well, you see, we toiled in the alt-weekly newspaper industry for quite a few years, and so we became great admirers of Dan Perkins, the “Tom Tomorrow” who draws the strip This Modern World. We even corresponded with him a bit as we moved around the country writing for various weekly rags. Then, in 2007 we arrived at the Village Voice, and then got a chance to meet the man himself. We ended up working together on a couple of cover stories with him, including one on Bill O’Reilly (pictured).

Dan lives in Connecticut, and we knew he was also a big Mark Twain fan, so we thought he’d jump at the chance to help us put on a talk about The Unbreakable Miss Lovely. And he agreed! So we hope that will give folks even more incentive to join us on July 14 as we talk about Paulette Cooper and Scientology, and maybe we can get Dan to talk a little about his projects as well — and sign some books.


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Ideal Org “Humanitarians” in Kansas City. We’re sure those kids are going to look back on this with pride.


Check out this cake (?) celebrating the Ideal ODD (Organización Desarrollo y Dianética) in Mexico City…


This dude in Moscow has the stare down, at least…


It was World Environment Day at the lovely Ideal Org in Jaffa. If you haven’t read our backstory on this gorgeously rehabbed former theater, you really must.





NEW: Reader Sookie put together an index for The Unbreakable Miss Lovely and we’re hosting it here on the website.

We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page.

Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

June 11: New York City (with Paulette Cooper) 5:30 to 7 pm. Private book party. If you’ve contacted us already, you’ll get venue information soon.

June 20: Chicago (with Christian Stolte) The Annoyance Theater, 5pm: This event is SOLD OUT.

June 22: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) Toronto Public Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd, 7:30 pm, sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry-Canada

June 23: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) The “Getting Clear” conference

June 28: Clearwater, Florida (with Paulette Cooper) Clearwater Public Library, 2 pm, sponsored by Center for Inquiry-Tampa Bay

July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry (with Paulette Cooper)

July 14: Hartford, MARK TWAIN HOUSE (with Tom Tomorrow)

August 4: London (with John Sweeney)

September 16: Arizona State University


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 7, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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