There’s no Jerry Lewis telethon today. There hasn’t been one since 2011. And every year since then, MDA– the Muscular Dystrophy Association– has lost money. In 2010, total contributions were $171 million. In 2014, the last year MDA has filed a Form 990 tax return, total contributions were $135 million.
Nevertheless, the new CEO, Steven Derks, who moved MDA from its home in Arizona to Chicago, made just over $550,000 in 2014.
Total salaries came to $60 million, but none of that went to the local firefighters I saw in my town on Saturday stopping cars to ask for bucket donations to MDA. I felt bad for them. I asked one, “Is this a personal thing? Does someone you know have MDA?” He answered no, they had just been doing to for years. They have no idea that the real MDA– Jerry Lewis, the telethon, the inflated salaries of the executives– have made the organization something far different than it was in its halcyon years.
In 2014, MDA reported that its total revenue was down by $10 million– from $150 million to $140 million. Of course, expenses– not including salaries– are down, because so much of the old network is shut down, and there’s no spending on the television show.
Nevertheless, just like the salaries, professional fundraising fees have remained constant, too– at $540,000 a year. Eight independent contractors split another $8 million, including $2 million paid to ABC to carry a two hour pre-taped special no one watched. A total of over $13 million was spent — not earned– on expenses for various MDA fundraisers.
Today, Lewis, 90, appeared on CBS Sunday Morning to promote his new movie, “Max Rose.” There was no mention of his controversial ouster from MDA. Earlier this year, it looked like there was some rapprochement between Lewis and MDA. But on the group’s website, his 50 year contribution to the organization is relegated to a footnote on their history page.
Jerry’s 2010 finale: