We've seen the ISO at community meetings, on campus, and in rare exceptions, in the workplace. With their authoritarian tendencies, attacks on anarchism and anarchists, historical revisionism on radical labor politics, cult-like recruiting tactics, and bizarre social manipulations of groups, many anarchists have asked the $60,000 question: are these folks paid, and who pays them?
The Center for Economic Research and Social Change is the paper organization for the ISO and their activities. They are a 501c3 organization (also in Chicago) that files 990s with the IRS every year. It is a common practice amongst activists to have a non-profit act as a steward for managing funds of other groups. Activist organizations often umbrella under non-profits, in order to save the administrative and bureaucratic hassle of getting a tax exemption-even anarchists.
In the last few years, the ISO has gotten pretty consistent with their presence in various places; the International Socialist Review is a slick, professional looking left magazine, and the ISO conventions run in the tens of thousands to organize. You can set your watch to when they will show up at various spots to sell the SW. If you think it is hard to believe that the ISO can pay for all of this with dues money and Socialist Worker sales, especially when publications with no advertising do not turn a profit, then you're on to something.
According to the 990 IRS forms filed in 2001, the Center received a large donation--perhaps a good chunk of the startup funds, from a man named Kevin Neel, who donated over 1.2 million in stock. The stock acquired by the Center is in Oracle and Phillip Morris. The Center has been selling off portions of this stock every year in excess of several hundred thousand a year, to fund a huge payroll, including $45,000 a year plus benefits to the Center's president Ahmed Sehrawy. For the year 2000-01, the total payroll in wages and benefits was $185,000 (presumably disbursed to several party organizers and staff-only $27,000 went to pay two officers of the Center.); in 2001-02, over $400,000, and in 2002-03: nearly $500,000. In 2002-03, Sehrawy made nearly $60,000 in wages and benefits.
For the past three years, the Center has also derived its funding from a handful of activists, much of it in cash. What this tells us is that the workers do not support the Center and the ISO-a few men with disposable income do. And given that fact that the Center's bottom line continues to show a net loss, these funds will soon dwindle, and magazine and paper sales will be as crucial as ever. This is in spite of a net increase of literature sales and monies raised at their yearly socialist conference in Chicago.
In the left, all one has to do is follow the money, to see who controls the politics. More research will reveal specifics on the relationship between the ISO and the Center's stock "trust fund". These "trustifarians" simply wear a blue collar. Thing is, who's on the rest of their payroll is not a matter of public record. And it would be too much to expect an organization for the workers to actually tell the workers who is on the payroll.