Some post-Expo transparency shall shine on the USA’s inexplicable pavilion secrecy.

My interest in reporting and blogging any further on the USA pavilion at Expo 2010 [Shanghai World’s Fair] ranges from none at all to zero. The Expo is over, and the consequences – if any – for how the founders of the pavilion conducted themselves in the course of securing, funding, designing, and promoting the pavilion is in the hands of others. But, then again … this weekend I received copies of some of the USA pavilion’s federal tax forms from 2008 and 2009. I had no interest or intent in posting them, but then, at the end of the 2009 filing, I found this:

Please note that the organization – officially Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc [SE2010] – was commissioned by the US State Department to design, build, fund, and operate a USA pavilion at Expo 2010. If the State Department itself had done it, the governing documents, conflict of interest policy, and financial statements would have been – by law – available to the public. But, for reasons I won’t go into here, it wasn’t run by State. In any case, the State Department, the Beijing Embassy, and the Shanghai Consulate apparently saw nothing objectionable in hiding from the American people, how money, raised and spent in their name, was being spent.  This is precisely the kind of secrecy – totally unnecessary, over-the-top secrecy – that makes organizations like wikileaks so valuable and necessary. So, in that spirit, I’m going to make available for upload/viewing SE2010’s Form 990s from 2008 and 2009. Right-click them to download; otherwise left-click and they’ll appear in a form you can read them at Shanghai Scrap.

SE 2010 Inc. 2008 990

SE 2010 Inc. 2009 990

I should be clear: there’s nothing confidential or secret here. These are publicly available documents – a person just has to go through the trouble of getting them. So consider this post my gift to Shanghai Scrap’s readers: you no longer have to go through the expense and trouble of getting them. Now, a warning: there’s no obvious smoking gun here. These documents span a period that ends in late summer 2009 – before most of the money associated with the pavilion had been raised and spent. Still, there are a couple of item that stick out, the most glaring being the US$367,830 on legal in 2009 (Part IX, line 9b). Ellen Eliasoph, a co-founder and director of the pavilion, is also a partner at Covington & Burling – the official legal services provider for the USA pavilion. In other words, as a partner in Covington & Burling, she personally benefited from the money spent on those legal services – which may be one reason that SE2010 didn’t want its conflict-of-interest policies and financials made public.

But whatever. Have a look for yourself, let me know if you see anything, and I’ll be back at you with what promises to be a much more interesting batch of 2010 tax filings whenever they become available next year.

10 comments

  1. A few additional comments:

    1. The $450K contribution in 2008, when the State Department conspired with Eliasoph and Winslow to create Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc. (SE 2010) — AFTER they had already personally been awarded a Letter of Intent to raise funds — was from a mysterious firm, an herbal pharmaceutical distributor with its main factory in Shanghai. This firm, which may be Chinese, is not identified in the tax return. Apparently, it was SE 2010’s sole contributor in 2008 before SE 2010 resigned in October 2008.

    2. SE 2010 was resurrected by the Consulate, again with Chinese money. This may be the $11 million in “assets” identified with the pavilion’s design and construction in the 2009 tax return. If this is correct, a lot more money was supplied by the Expo hosts than has formerly been admitted.

    Interestingly, though the 2009 return is through the month of August 2009 — well after Hillary Clinton completed her initial fundraising for SE 2010 as reported in the press, only $4 million in contributions/investments is listed. (I say investments because I do not believe SE 2010 was a legitimate charity, just a private company — but that’s another story.) This is strange, since several corporations are reported in the press to have made investments in the early to mid-2009 months.

    3. You write, “Please note that the organization – officially Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc [SE2010] – was commissioned by the US State Department to design, build, fund, and operate a USA pavilion at Expo 2010.” So far, no documents have been produced that officially commission SE 2010 for this purpose. They may exist, but so far neither the State Department nor its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which provided the initial Letter of Intent, has produced this letter. Each has promised a response to my inquiry, but that was months ago. The Letter of Intent is quite clear that it is NOT authorization to do anything pending money being on the table to create the Pavilion, a condition SE 2010 did not meet at the time the US officially committed to being at the Expo (around March 2009). So something is wrong.

    4. Adam, I’m sorry you’re no longer interested. The perps haven’t gone away; they’re still in your neighborhood. My research suggests that no only was a lot of money collected into a slush fund, more than was needed for the pavilion; and not only did a lot of “contributors” (investors) get more than they paid for; but also that the subsequent use of the money ginned up by Clinton may have had uses other than initially claimed or subsequently stated. The Shanghai Amcham was involved; it has ties to the US Chamber of Commerce. The readers will have to draw their own conclusions, for now.

  2. I had a chuckle when I saw that you were descending into this mud pit again. This post is getting emailed around and surely causing some heartburn among the “founders.” I’m sure they thought they shut you up. But as you note it is out of your hands now. No need to keep rattling the bones.

  3. Adam — Thank you for your research and for staying with the story. You have done a good job over the past two years, in my view, of surfacing a lot of the intricacies of the USAP that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

    In that spirit, your readers might be interested to know:

    1. Bob Jacobson was in a group that competed for and lost the rights to lead the USA efforts at the Expo. He would normally not be viewed as a disinterested party. For example, nothing wrong with McCain’s campaign manager raising questions about the Obama campaign, but the relationship should be disclosed.

    2. Bob subsequently filed a complaint about the USA Pavilion Committee with the State Department Inspector General – which has gone nowhere. This puts him in a different category than other journalists or bloggers who are seeking answers, raising questions, and putting the spotlight on issues. In contrast, Bob is actively trying to damage the Pavilion efforts.

    3. Bob subsequently filed a complaint against the USA Pavilion Committee with the IRS – which also went nowhere. Again, the only impact of this move is that it might contribute to the impression he is just a malcontent.

    4. He makes allegations about Hillary Clinton and possible misuse of funds – completely unsubstantiated. No facts or figures. Most people would just call that a smear. Now he has made the journey from open hostility to the USA Pavilion to open hostility to Hillary Clinton.

    Thank you for letting me provide some background.

  4. A lot of people have had their reputations badly badly damaged by their association with SE2010. Think Ellen, Nick or Frank is going to get any Xmas cards from State for their “it’s fine” pavilion? I’ve heard Bob Rodgers is having trouble getting certain clients for his work on this thing. I’ve heard the same rumors as everyone about the IRS etc etc but even if that turns out to be the case I think the pnishment has already been meted out. I dont know why these people have been so secretive either.

  5. Expo Townie, you have to be more specific when you say State Department. If you mean Shanghai consulate, then yes I think the three musketeers will be getting Xmas cards from Tom Cooney and Bea Camp. But the question is will Bea Camp and Tom Cooney be getting xmas cards from DC?

  6. @Invisible Expo — This anonymous pillock has set himself/herself up as my persecutor — or stalker, however you like it — all around the Web. So let me respond to Its as usual anonymous claims:

    “1. Bob Jacobson was in a group that competed for and lost the rights to lead the USA efforts at the Expo. He would normally not be viewed as a disinterested party. For example, nothing wrong with McCain’s campaign manager raising questions about the Obama campaign, but the relationship should be disclosed.”

    Those who have been reading Adam’s accounts know about my proud association with the BH&L Group, a nonprofit, voluntary gathering of award-winning Expo veterans who responded to the State Department’s 2006-7 RFP for a US Pavilion. We were “last man standing” — “a field of one,” as the State Department put it — in November 2007. Then the State Department without warning or reason, in the midst of negotiations, aborted the RFP. Three months later, in secret, without notice or competitive review, it threw the pavilion assignment to two inexperienced individuals with insider connections to the Bush Administration. They subsequently founded Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., the problematic “nonprofit” — which may be very profitable indeed, it hasn’t filed the required tax return that would tell the tale.

    “Invisible Expo” implies that my interest in this matter, which I’ve tracked for three years, is simply sour grapes. No. I contend that American taxpayers have footed a commercial, corporate extravaganza, the “USA” Pavilion, perhaps to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in forgone tax revenues that properly must be paid back to us. Invisible Expo wants to play a little ad hominem shell game to take our eyes off the ball. No way.

    “2. Bob subsequently filed a complaint about the USA Pavilion Committee with the State Department Inspector General – which has gone nowhere. This puts him in a different category than other journalists or bloggers who are seeking answers, raising questions, and putting the spotlight on issues. In contrast, Bob is actively trying to damage the Pavilion efforts.”

    The efforts of the private company that ran the “USA” Pavilion together with its Shanghai Amcham partner and the Shanghai Consulate did damage enough; they didn’t need help to pervert this once-in-a-lifetime situation to their own commercial and political ends. Adam has documented much of the story here. It doesn’t need repeating.

    My Nov 2009 Request for an Investigation to the State Dept. Inspector General was bumped upstairs to Secretary Clinton’s Executive Office, immediately. Just last month I received notice from her Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, that I will finally receive a reply. So you see, the RFI went somewhere.

    “3. Bob subsequently filed a complaint against the USA Pavilion Committee with the IRS – which also went nowhere. Again, the only impact of this move is that it might contribute to the impression he is just a malcontent.”

    I hardly believe that the pursuit of restitution of tens of millions of dollars to the American taxpayers is the work of a “malcontent.” (I prefer to think of Invisible Expo as a true malcontent, never quite stating the truth as it is, but only as it serves Its purposes…but leave it be.)

    Also, I filed a Complaint in May 2010 with the IRS. The IRS doesn’t reveal if it acts on a Complaint or not, but there certainly has been enough action around and about to suggest that the Complaint has been taken very seriously. It would help if Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc. would file timely tax returns — like 2010’s, due five months ago — but even the 2008 and 2009 returns are indicative of shady maneuvers.

    “4. He makes allegations about Hillary Clinton and possible misuse of funds – completely unsubstantiated. No facts or figures. Most people would just call that a smear. Now he has made the journey from open hostility to the USA Pavilion to open hostility to Hillary Clinton.”

    Ridiculous entity. I have stated several times in public and in my submissions to the US Government agencies that the entire scheme was dreamed up by the Bush Administration, several of whose schemers were and are associated intimately with Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc. The record is clear. Secretary Clinton was wrangled into the affair after being given bad advice — not least, from sources in Shanghai — and lent her fundraising acumen to salvaging Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., a private company, rather than listening to the Shanghai expat community which warned this was a team of losers. Ultimately, she had to bail out the company. The pavilion that resulted was so distastefully commercial that it insulted her on her visit to Shanghai in early 2010, according to the NY Times and Foreign Policy. I’m sure she has had second thoughts. She’s not to blame for the scheme, however. That was the Bush people’s doing.

    Invisible Expo concludes, “Thank you for letting me provide some background.” What a joke. What I’m trying to figure out, and would appreciate any tips or leads, is whether Invisible Expo is a stand-alone creep or working for Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., or the Shanghai Consulate. It has an alter ego, BTW, “Expo Good Cop.” It was revealed on Chengdu Living.com that this anonymous coward maintains two identities that act out a bad cop/good cop routine to blast critics of Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc.

    The story gets stranger and stranger. And although I’m not a journalist, only an interested citizen, I’m certainly tempted to write it all down. This could be the perfect Crime of the 21st Century, with money swirling around, slush funds and overpayments, great benefits for corporate investors (not contributors, please), and even black money funneled back to the US for reasons better left to the readers’ imagination. There might even be a book in it! Thank you, Invisible Expo, for the encouragement.

  7. The unabobber strikes again.

    With a pungent writing style and loads of sanctimony, Bob Jacobson can relate a nice story. The trouble is the facts don’t back him up.

    First, we are all in agreement on key points.

    1. Bob has a conflict of interest which he did not disclose in his posting. Yes, he intermittently did so disclose in the past. My point was not that he was never ethical in this regard, merely that he was not being ethical in this instance.

    2. He filed complaints with the IRS and the State Department that have gone nowhere.

    3. He wrote an unsubstantiated screed against Hillary Clinton. (Hard to believe he is the kind of person who would lose a State Dept competition.

    Bob – You lost the competition over two years ago and you have spent this time trashing those who have won. But you have never worked on an Expo in your life. Can you say “sore loser?”

    You trashed the Bush State Department, the Obama State Department, the Foreign Service officers, corporate sponsors, Pavilion staff, and everybody connected with the Pavilion. Can you say “sour grapes?”

    You slash everybody working on the USA Pavilion. You get in a lengthy quarrel with Student Ambassadors. You assert to these college students, “I am famous.” Can you say “screaming insecure?”

    We could conclude you are just another loser on the Internet, but there is a more important point.

    You have trouble with the truth. You make things up. You have lied and claimed you won the RFP. You have lied and claimed you were rated by the State Department as “best qualified.” You are the kind of guy who gives bitter accusatory bloggers a bad name.

    No surprise you never won any Expo competition. Ever. No surprise you have never won any national competition. Ever.

    I might have all sorts of problems and criticisms of the USA Pavilion. I might well agree with many points Adam raised. He did some solid reporting, in my view. But beyond the criticism, I also see a group of people trying against significant odds to make sure the U.S. is represented. With mistakes and wrong turns along the way, no doubt. But none of this proves they did anything fundamentally wrong, or that you were fundamentally right. And a quick read of your writings suggests someone with your temperament is not going to be suitable to represent his country.

    My guess is you have many strengths, but you seem overwhelmed with the bitterness of two years ago. You say you were “last man standing” in the competition. Ha. That is cleverly misleading. Three groups initially entered the competition, and two dropped out. So you were indeed the last man standing, but not because you had won anything or proven anything or done anything. We could just as easily state that when the bar closed at 3am, you were the last drunk at the counter. No surprise the State Dept wanted someone else.

    Now it looks like you are lying again, this time concerning your State Department complaint. You state “Just last month I received notice from her Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, that I will finally receive a reply.” Why should anyone believe this, Bob? I doubt Cheryl Mills would reply to anything you wrote. I think you are lying.

    Here’s a simple test: post the notice from Cheryl Mills.
    But my guess is you are lying again. There is no letter. And you will come up with a phony reason as to why it cannot be posted. You are good at conjuring up alibis and excuses. You claimed you won the RFP, but you just cannot provide the proof. You claim you were rated “best qualified” but you cannot provide the proof. Now you claim that Cheryl Mills has sent you a notice – my guess is there is no proof. And you will gin up some phony reason why you cannot provide the evidence.

    Proof, pls bob.

    Alternatively, you can write a screed as to why you cannot provide the proof, so we all know you have been caught in another lie.

    Let me borrow from Bob’s self-righteous close: Bob’s story gets stranger and stranger. And although I’m not a journalist, only an interested citizen, I’m certainly tempted to write it all down.

    Finally, in the spirit of the Season, I hope that you will at some point develop the capacity to find some good in others, and to stop the hatred.

  8. Bob & Invisible Expo – I think we’ll end it there. I’m open to hosting comments of any and all kinds – especially those critical of me. But I’m very reluctant to host an argument that’s carrying over from other blogs – and especially an argument that has anonymous sides. Now, just to be clear: I’m not picking favorites or sides here. Well, I’m picking my side: let’s call it a day on this. And I think you both owe me a non-Expo related comment on the big “141 Shanghai Christmas Trees Post – 2011 Edition” due up later tonight.

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