Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


President George H.W. Bush dies at 94, and we remember a fateful October 1991 day

[President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in October 1991]

Unlike L. Ron Hubbard, George Herbert Walker Bush was an actual World War II veteran with combat experience, a decorated Navy pilot who would go on to a distinguished political career as congressman, CIA director, UN ambassador, vice president and then president of the United States from 1989 to 1993. He died yesterday at the age of 94, just 227 days after the death of his beloved wife, Barbara.

This is not a political blog and we’re not interested in debating President Bush’s merits as commander in chief, or that of his son George W. Bush. But we felt that as Scientology watchers the first Bush presidency should be memorialized for at least one important reason: The role it played in granting what David Miscavige and Scientology wanted more than anything else, and that was tax exempt status.

L. Ron Hubbard initially established his movement, then called Dianetics, as the “modern science of mental health” in 1950. It wasn’t until 1953 that he wrote to a follower suggesting they try out the “religion angle,” as he put it. He and his son L. Ron Hubbard Jr. (also known as “Nibs”) signed the first incorporation papers for a “Church of Scientology” in Camden, New Jersey in December 1953. Churches were then established in Los Angeles in 1954 and Washington DC in 1955.

As Nibs wrote later, “calling his group a religion gave him more latitude in regard to corporate structure, made it harder for people and groups to try to get him to curb his activities and gave him tax exemption.” But in 1967 a court ruled that Scientology was a business designed to enrich L. Ron Hubbard, and stripped that tax exemption. As Alex Gibney explained in his 2015 HBO documentary Going Clear, Hubbard refused to pay taxes after that ruling, so in the ensuing years Scientology’s tax debt grew and grew and became a serious liability for the organization.

Hubbard died in 1986, and his young lieutenant David Miscavige soon pushed others out of the way to take over as Scientology’s unrivaled dictator. Miscavige made Scientology’s number one priority to regain tax exemption from the IRS. As Marty Rathbun explain in Going Clear, that entailed a vast effort targeting the IRS and its individual employees in an unprecedented program of constant pressure. Scientology had more than two thousand lawsuits filed by individual Scientologists against the IRS and its employees, harassed IRS officials with dirty tricks programs and surveillance by private investigators, and kept up the hounding year after year.


Then, as Rathbun has explained, on one fateful day in October 1991, he and Miscavige were in Washington DC and got the idea to simply drop in on the IRS without an appointment. They didn’t get past the reception desk, but they were told that if they came back in a week, they could actually meet with President Bush’s then IRS commissioner, Fred Goldberg Jr.

At that meeting Miscavige made his pitch to Goldberg — find a way for the two sides to work out an agreement, and all of the pressure from the church will stop immediately. As the meeting ended, and they were walking out of the office, Rathbun said that Goldberg asked him if it were really true, that if they found a way to work something out, the harassment would go away. Rathbun said it would, and Goldberg’s shoulders slumped, as if a weight had lifted.

Soon after that, Goldberg initiated an IRS study of Scientology’s status as a non-profit organization.

Years ago, when we were working on a story about Scientology in the 1990s, we consulted a tax journalist in DC, an expert in the field who was thoroughly familiar with Goldberg and that history. He assured us that once Goldberg initiated that study, the outcome was assured.

It took two more years, and the IRS put Scientology through a rigorous process of turning over information and going through complex audits, but then in October 1993, under another IRS commissioner, Margaret Milner Richardson, and her commander in chief, President Bill Clinton, the IRS granted Scientology virtually everything it was asking for. Scientology’s billion-dollar tax debt was erased in a settlement that cost the church only $12.5 million, and its many entities were once again tax exempt, enjoying incredibly strong protections against law enforcement interference.

Since then, Miscavige has been able to use that protection to build an empire dedicated to himself. Here’s how Rathbun described it in a 2010 sworn court declaration:

“Between approximately 1993 when IRS tax exempt status was obtained and the present, David Miscavige has been executing a program of his own design that has transformed the Church of Scientology from a recognized religious organization into a commercial operation devoted almost exclusively toward increasing his own wealth, entertainment, comfort, and power.”

President Bill Clinton certainly deserves part of the credit for approving that deal in 1993, and then for using his State Department to advocate for Scientology in other countries, as when it chided the German government for cracking down on the church there.

But we should also remember that Clinton signed off on something that had actually begun under his predecessor, when George H.W. Bush’s IRS commissioner began a process that his predecessors had resisted for years.

“The IRS wrongly, as I believe, entered into a closing agreement with this cult,” Donald C. Alexander, a former IRS commissioner, told us for a story in 2002. “I don’t think the IRS is going to go back and unravel that closing agreement as much as it might be in the public’s interest to do so.” Alexander was commissioner from 1973 to 1977, when Scientology’s operatives were breaking in and stealing from government offices in its Snow White Program. Alexander’s conference room was bugged, and he was unnerved by 2 am phone calls on his unlisted home number. But while he was commissioner, he said, he vowed never to give in to Scientology’s harassing tactics. “One of my successors didn’t feel that way. Maybe [Fred Goldberg] actually believed this thing was a church. Stranger things have happened, but I can’t think of any.”


Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Erika Christensen, Ethan Suplee, and Juliette Lewis]

We’re building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs.’ We’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them, in order to build a record and maintain a watch as Scientology continues its inexorable decline — and yes, we finally have comments working on these new pages! Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Today’s Scientology front: Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE)!



Now on sale: Twice the Miss Lovely!

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. What a pleasure it is for us to work with her on this after we wrote about her ordeal as a victim of Scientology’s “Fair Game” campaigns in our 2015 book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, which is also on sale in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions.



[ONE year ago] How L. Ron Hubbard used ‘past lives’ to set a trap for Scientologists
[TWO years ago] Leah Remini: Scientology’s new attack has a Katie Holmes angle they aren’t talking about
[THREE years ago] Legoland theme park donates $10,000 to Scientology front on behalf of Jenna Elfman
[FOUR years ago] Hey, Dr. Phil, get a clue about Scientology and stop stiff-arming Lori Hodgson
[FIVE years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: Fundraising Mailers Galore!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,285 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,416 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,918 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,398 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 461 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 349 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,656 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,524 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,298 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,072 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,418 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,984 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,904 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,071 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,652 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,912 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,952 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,664 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,190 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,279 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,419 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,739 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,595 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,714 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,070 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,372 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,478 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,881 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,752 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,335 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,830 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,084 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,193 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on December 1, 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates

Join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email