Paul Elam: All Your Donations Are Belong to Me
Posted by David Futrelle
Heh. I’m on my annual semi-vacation this week, and was planning on keeping my postings here fairly light. But the news waits for no one. And by “news” I mean the daily parade of ridiculousness coming from the Men’s “Human Rights” camp. So here’s a quick report on the latest bit of high irony involving A Voice for Men.
Well, I was wrong. I’ve often noted that the Men’s Rights movement in general, and A Voice for Men in particular, doesn’t actually provide any real help for any real men. Sure, as far as I can tell, precisely zero of the hundreds of thousands of dollars A Voice for Men has raised from donors over the years has gone into providing actual services for men — say, funding a hotline for troubled men or some other practical program that doesn’t primarily involve yelling at women online. But never let it be said that none of this money gods to help men.
Because, it turns out, that money has been going to help men. Or at least that subset of men that consists of one Paul Elam of Houston Texas.
After being pressed for details about A Voice for Men’s finances by anonymous commenters on Reddit, a certain Twitterer named @DavidFutrelle and a journalist from MSNBC, Elam has finally fessed up and admitted that all the money donated to his website goes directly to him. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Elam had to say in a post from yesterday:
Every dollar donated goes right into my pocket. I spend that money on this website and on activist efforts at my own discretion, considering the opinions of the AVFM management team that volunteers to help run this place. … I depend on the site for my living, and to do as much FTSU as possible while I am at it.
In the past, of course, Elam was a bit more, well, elusive about where the money was going, talking about the costs of paying for web hosting and stock images rather than, say, the costs of paying the mortgage of one Paul Elam. Maybe “elusive” isn’t the correct word. “Deceptive” might be more like it.
You may also recall this pitch he once made for donations (I’ve put the best parts in bold):
I am tired of seeing a comparative handful of men and women cough up the lion’s share of financial assistance when most, even some who come here every day to read and cheer on FTSU, won’t cough up five fucking dollars to help us out; who are just fine as long as none of the burden, even a trivial part of it, is on them. …
[T]he longer I am at this, the less patience I have with dead weight, those who think AVFM is a fucking source of entertainment, or a life preserver for when the tables finally, inevitably turn against them.
In a way, I feel even worse now for most of the men who will make contact with AVfM looking for that lifeline. Unless their story is one that has the potential for me to exploit and gain media attention to THE CAUSE, then all I will have for them is a link to this article.
Well, and perhaps this piece of advice.
If the system has ruined your life, join the club. You are now in the ranks of men you have ignored your whole life. My advice to you is simple. Take your fucking quietly and with grace. Expect the same compassion you have always extended to those men who wore the shoes you are now wearing.
If you want things to change, then stock up on Ramen, get cozy in your studio apartment and join us in the fight to fix this shit. Don’t ask us to help you, but rather give your life the only meaning it may have left, as someone ready and willing to turn your meager existence into helping others who have been similarly screwed over.
In other words, Elam told troubled men turning to his site for help that they should stock up on Ramen noodles — and pay his bills. Oh, and on several occasions he’s boasted about taking donations from people taking the money from their unemployment checks.
As for the other people who put in so much time and energy at his site? As far as I can figure it from Elam’s evasive post yesterday, they earn nothing but a “thanks.”
At the end of each day, even with the incredible levels of help I get from people like Dean Esmay, David King, Al Martin and every one of the incredible people who work at AVFM, I am still target number one. I am a target for feminists posing as concerned MHRAs, yellow hacks like David Futrelle, and a target for many in the media who would love nothing better than to publish my personal financial information after putting their disgusting spin on it.
As you might have gathered from that quote, Elam remains indignant that anyone would even ask where the money goes.
And that goes for the money he recently raised that was supposedly earmarked to pay the security costs of AVFM’s conference. About that, he says only:
we hired four police officials (three officers and one supervisor) for coverage of the entire event and also hired a local attorney, paying his retainer in advance. We also had to engage our regular attorney, and have not yet been billed for their services.
In effect, we spent the money raised on precisely what we said we would spend it on, and have set aside what little remained for the next conference.
Really? According to costhelper.com, off-duty police officers generally cost $40-60 an hour; this Sheriff’s department puts the costs at $27-$31 an hour for each of its officers, including administrative fees. Even assuming that AVFM paid at the top of this range — $60 an hour — it would have cost them only $7200 to pay for four officers working ten hours each of the three days of the conference.
The amount that AVFM might have paid for legal fees depends on how much their lawyers charge per hour, and how many hours they worked. Assuming each lawyer charged $200 per hour and worked thirty hours over the three days of the conference — which I highly doubt — the cost for their legal assistance would have added up to $12,000. If AVFM actually paid even half that for legal fees I will eat my cats.
Even with these extremely generous assumptions, AVFM would have paid out only a little over $19,000 for security and legal fees. AVFM raised more than $30,000 for “security.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I also ask readers for donations. But I’ve always made clear that aside from donations specifically earmarked for other things the money goes to me. (And the cats.) And I don’t demand that donors pay me $20,000 per quarter — $80,000 a year — on top of whatever donations come in between the quarterly fundraisers, not to mention special “security” fundraisers.
I’m very grateful to those who donate to me — and indeed to everyone who’s contributed time and effort and knowledge and artistic skills to help the site — but I take in only a fraction of what Elam evidently takes in. And I don’t ask for money from those who are themselves broke.
In the comments on AVFM, the regulars are of course rallying around Elam. Then again, I can’t imagine anyone critical of what he does with the money would remain unbanned there for long.