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Hey, IRS: You might want to look at this new photo Scientology posted of David Miscavige

We have to hand it to our great tipsters. They are constantly on the lookout for us, and we truly appreciate it. In this case, we have an alert correspondent who brought our attention to the most recent issue of Freedom magazine.

We have to admit that we’re paying less attention to Freedom these days. It’s gotten so dull recently. For a while, it was a cartoonish attack vehicle for leader David Miscavige, going after perceived church enemies such as Anderson Cooper, Lawrence Wright, and the “posse of lunatics” — former high-ranking church officials who went public in 2009.


[Freedom’s free-wheeling days of aggressive smears]


At some point, Miscavige must have realized that this approach was only fueling the doubts of disillusioned church members, because he shut down the magazine for a while, and when he brought it back he had hired a whole new crew of former professional newspaper and magazine editors who then spent a couple of years pretending that Freedom was a serious current-affairs publication.

But even that didn’t last, and in the last year or so the magazine dropped any pretense of serious journalism and switched over entirely to rah-rah cheerleading about Miscavige, featuring flattering and slick portraits of him, like this opening spread from the latest issue of the magazine…


This photo is like many others of Miscavige showing up lately in the church’s publications and its various official websites. But one of our eagle-eyed readers noticed that there was something a little different about this particular portrait.

Look closely, and you’ll see that in this photo, unlike the others, you can get a pretty clear shot of the wristwatch that Dave is wearing.

Our correspondent managed to get a high-resolution of the image, and then blew it up to get a better look at that watch…


We were able to do the same thing ourselves, and pumped up the image of the watch so you can see that our correspondent’s blowup was not a Photoshop job.



Our correspondent looked around until he found what he says is a match on the timepiece, and we have to say his suggestion is pretty compelling. We’ve looked very carefully at the image of Miscavige’s watch and compared it to product images, and we have to agree that what Dave is wearing is a pink gold “Drive de Cartier” wristwatch with alligator leather strap.

Cartier itself lists the watch at its website for $19,100. See for yourself…


Why is this important? Well, we are constantly asked about Scientology’s special (and officially secret) agreement with the Internal Revenue Service that granted it tax-exempt status in October 1993. If you’ve seen Alex Gibney’s 2015 HBO documentary Going Clear, you might remember him interviewing Lawrence Wright, former top Scientology official Marty Rathbun, and your proprietor about the “war” that Scientology won with the IRS to obtain that status.

Scientology had lost its tax-exempt status in 1967 because the courts found that too much wealth was going to one man — Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard — and that Scientology was too much a business benefiting its founder, not a “religion” benefiting its followers. The IRS had to ignore a lot of unusual things about Scientology in order to reverse itself and grant that status in 1993. People constantly ask us — why can’t the IRS take a new look at that agreement to see if Scientology is abiding by it?

We know, for example, that as part of its agreement Scientology said it would give refunds to anyone who asked for them. And just about anyone who has left the church in the last 20 years can tell you that’s certainly not the case. And there are many other things Scientology is doing these days that we’d like the IRS to take a look at.

One of them, for example, is David Miscavige’s lavish lifestyle. According to documents the church filed for the IRS agreement, Miscavige had a nominal salary of $62,683 in 1991. (Most Sea Org members who work for him take home $50 a week, when they’re paid at all.) But that “salary” means little when Miscavige runs Scientology like a dictatorship, and he has personal control of the church’s billions in value.

In previous stories, we’ve pointed out that Miscavige has spent ludicrous amounts of money building palaces to himself that he never actually uses. There were these amazing photographs of “Building 50,” a palatial office complex Miscavige built for himself on a compound, Int Base, where he hasn’t set foot in years. Mike Rinder estimated that Miscavige’s steel desk alone cost up to $30,000.

And John Brousseau, who also worked closely with Miscavige, told us about the lavish spending on Miscavige’s private quarters, including a custom-made humidor estimated to be worth $40,000, and a personal tanning bed. Nothing was too good or too expensive when it came to Miscavige, who orders hand-made custom shoes from London.

There’s also the money he spends on private investigators. Two private investigators detained by law enforcement in 2013 testified that they were being paid $10,000 a week by Miscavige with orders to follow Dave’s own father, Ron Miscavige. Is the use of tax-free money for that kind of expense covered under the IRS agreement?

So, given all that, isn’t it something that Dave’s own glowing profile in Freedom revealed that he’s got a $19,100 wristwatch to go along with his very expensive suits and shoes?

We asked Scientology’s former spokesman Mike Rinder, who worked closely with Miscavige for years, if he remembered seeing the Cartier watch.

“No, I havent seen that one,” he says. “But he had a pretty impressive collection of expensive watches. At least one Rolex. An Omega chronograph. A Panerai diver’s watch. At least one ChronoSwiss. These are ones I have seen him wear.”

Hey, maybe the Cartier is new. Wouldn’t it be in the public’s interest for the IRS to inquire as to why tax-free money is being spent on that kind of opulence?


Talking Scientology TV with John and Jillian

We enjoyed spending a few minutes of drive time with John Phillips and Jillian Barberie at KABC 790 in Los Angeles about the premiere of the new Scientology Network. But we also took advantage of the situation to plug Vanity Fair Confidential’s episode about Shelly Miscavige.

The trouble starts about 21 minutes in…



SMERSH Madness 2018

It’s day four of our big dance! We’ve chosen 24 of the people we think are working hardest to defend Scientology against its enemies. These are not only Scientologists, but also the people who enable the church as it works against its foes. Which of them do you think deserves the most recognition for Keeping Scientology Working, spreading disconnection, and litigating former Scientologists into the ground?

In our first match today, our #14 seed is Freedom magazine editor John Sugg, who has been very sensitive about us mentioning him. But he’s a fascinating character who was once fairly well known in the Tampa region as a muckraking journalist. His former colleagues tell us they’re astonished that someone who saw Scientology up front as a journalist would then go to work for the church, but for the past several years it’s Sugg who has written the glowing profiles of David Miscavige and the breathless testimonials about Scientology’s “expansion.” Just imagine how good the money must be to convince someone to write lines like this, from the most recent issue of Freedom: “How is leadership displayed? Location and words are not the defining ingredients of leaders, but they can be signposts indicating the intense commitment of people who command allegiance — David Miscavige. In 2017, those signposts were emblazoned with accomplishment, deeds that could only be achieved by a true leader.”

Sugg is taking on the #19 seed, Scientology’s reclusive — almost mythical, really — international spokeswoman, Karin Pouw. Now that Tommy Davis and Mike Rinder have left, and David Miscavige himself never talks to the press, Scientology has fallen back on Sea Org lifer Pouw to deliver its public pronouncements (when it’s not having one of its attorneys handle it). The funny thing is, Pouw pretty much only communicates through email, and never gives interviews. We have long suspected that David Miscavige himself may be writing press releases under her name. But we’re especially fortunate that we did get to meet Ms. Pouw in person, way back around the year 2001, when we had lunch with her at the Celebrity Centre. During that memorable meal, Pouw got a little uptight about our questions and blurted, “So we think Jesus is a figment of the imagination! So what!” Luckily, we’d brought our notepad along.


[John Sugg and Karin Pouw]

In our second matchup, #11 seed and former top Scientology official Mark “Marty” Rathbun has certainly been earning his stripes lately as Scientology’s go-to attack dog. That’s a pretty stunning turn of events for people who were watching Rathbun’s gradual trajectory from Miscavige enforcer (1980s to 2004) to reclusive defector (2004-2008) to Indie champion (2009-2012) to anti-church litigant (2013-2015) and then back to Miscavige defender (2016- ). In his professionally-prepared attack videos, he’s taken a shotgun approach with blasts at everyone from Lawrence Wright to Paul Haggis to Leah Remini. But it’s his vicious swipes at Mike Rinder, formerly such a good and supportive friend, that really strike us as ugly in the extreme. It’s a pretty bewildering U-turn for a man who once said, “Just so everybody knows, as Miscavige just won’t seem to get it through his head, I will never fold to any pressure no matter how intense, and I am not for sale – at any price.”

Rathbun is taking on our #22 seed, second-generation Scientologist and That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson. Although Masterson never really threatened to become a big star, he could be relied on to speak up for Scientology and its front groups on occasion. When Alex Gibney’s Going Clear was premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, Masterson was also at the event and defended Scientology in a magazine interview, which we thought took some chutzpah. But with the LAPD and L.A. District Attorney’s office dragging on their investigation of Masterson for multiple violent rapes for more than a year — resulting in his getting fired from his Netflix series, The Ranch, and also from his management company — we can’t help thinking he’s becoming something of a liability for the church, hence his lowered seeding. Can he continue to be a champion for David Miscavige? We sure wish Jackie Lacey’s DA Office would make up its mind soon.


[Marty Rathbun and Danny Masterson]

There are your matchups of the day. Who deserves to move on as champions of Scientology? Who has done more to perpetuate the church’s reputation in this time of crisis? Cast your votes!


Yesterday’s winners: Tommy Davis slipped past Gary Soter, and Nancy Cartwright bested Louis Farrakhan!


Make your plans now!

Head over to our HowdyCon 2018 website to start making your travel plans!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,055 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,658 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 201 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,264 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,038 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,812 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,158 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,652 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,692 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,404 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 930 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,019 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,159 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,479 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,454 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 810 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,112 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,218 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,621 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,493 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,075 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,580 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,824 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,933 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on March 16, 2018 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | 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 non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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