The Gun Almost Smokes, Pt. II: Potentially serious conflicts of interest at the USA Expo 2010 pavilion.

For more than a year, the USA pavilion at Expo 2010 has been shrouded in inexplicable secrecy. To this day, for example, the State Department won’t reveal the process by which Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc [SE 2010] – the non-profit it authorized to design, fund, build and manage the US pavilion – was selected; who and how a Canadian architect was chosen to design the US pavilion; or, for that matter, release a detailed budget on how SE 2010 was spending its $61 million in tax-deductible contributions. Unfortunately, the first two questions are still mysteries: the State Department, SE 2010, and the US Consulate in Shanghai have been obstinate in their refusal to answer questions on these matters. However, the last question – a detailed budget – received a partial answer last week when I published a cost estimate that SE 2010 had filed with the IRS in June 2009.

Readers will recall that the IRS documents indicated that SE 2010, Inc was spending US$23 million for the three short films that are featured in the USA pavilion (a sum that exceeds the cost of 4 of the ten Academy Award nominees for Best Picture). No surprise, the producer of the three films – BRC Imagination Arts of Burbank, California – is, according to the June 2009 IRS documents, the pavilion’s top-paid contractor [click to enlarge].

In the above document, BRC is promised US$10 million for Production Design/Fabrication; according to individuals associated with two other national pavilions, that $10 million most likely folds into the $23 million for “show construction & installation” in the cost sheet. In any case, no other contractor is listed in the IRS filing; BRC is the largest. Continue reading

How did the US manage to spend $61 million on an Expo 2010 pavilion? IRS filings offer some insights.

As regular readers know, for more than a year I’ve asked the USA pavilion at Expo 2010 (World’s Fair) and the State Department to provide me with a precise accounting of how they’re spending the US$61 million that they’ve raised from private corporations in the name of the United States of America. And, for more than a year, I’ve been met with either a) silence, or b) “we can’t do anything unless the pavilion’s board of directors approves it.” Even if the latter answer is sincere (and I’m pretty sure it’s not), the fact that several of the board members refuse to return my calls doesn’t bode well for my request.

So, rather than bang my head against the pavilion wall, I’ve decided to take a look at what the Internal Revenue Service has on Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc (that’s the name of the non-profit corporation that funds and manages the USA pavilion). And lo and behold, there, amidst a very interesting filing that I’ll touch upon in coming days, we find a June 29, 2009 document helpfully named “USA Pavilion Summary Cost Sheet.” Click the thumbnail document below to expand it.

It’s important to keep in mind that the numbers in this document were made a few weeks before the pavilion ground-breaking, and so they may have changed in the intervening months (then again, many of the numbers conform to what I and others have heard around town). Still, in the interest of accuracy and fairness, yesterday I forwarded a copy of the Cost Sheet to Martin Alintuck, spokesman for the USA pavilion, offering Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc the opportunity to comment upon, update, or correct any of the figures. Alintuck has not responded.

Meanwhile, over the weekend I shared the Cost Sheet with two individuals associated in similar ways with Expo 2010, and they were kind enough to provide me with their thoughts on it. Continue reading