Friday, February 15, 2013

Social Justice Advocate Jim Wallis' $197,000 Salary

Jim Wallis, 2012
The last time I checked two years ago, Sojourners thought it right to pay their main guy $162,000 plus another $15,000 in other compensation a year. This put him in the top 7% of American family wage earners.

Their 2011 tax filing shows a raise to $183,000 plus $15,000 for a total of $197,000. According to 2010 census data this puts Wallis in the top 6% of American family incomes.

One wonders at Wallis' and Sojourners' principles of social justice. They apparently believe that social justice means their executive director should be capable of living a lifestyle of the top 6% of Americans.

Interestingly, Sojourners did not have this view ten years ago. From 2002 to 2005, they were paying Jim Wallis a social justice-type salary of $25,000-$30,000. But, as contributions and income soared with the popularizing of their social justice message, their view of a fair salary for their executive director rose too. Below is a chart showing the rise of Jim Wallis' compensation and the rise of Sojourners' assets .

red line: Jim Wallis' salary; yellow line: Sojourners' assets

Wallis' salary rose from about $25,000 in 2002 to $110,000 in 2006 just as Sojourners' assets rose from about $500,000 in 2002 to $3.5 million in 2006.

Wallis' salary peaked in 2010 at $218,000 a few years after Sojourners' assets had peaked at nearly $6 million in 2007.

The slide down to 2011's $3.4 million in assets has not been reflected in Wallis' salary going back to the $110,00 a year he earned when Sojourner assets were $3.5 million.

Apparently Sojourners has a similar view to the Wall Street 1% that the more money an executive director generates, the higher his salary should be.

A higher salary makes sense as capitalism, but not in terms of a ministry about social and economic justice.

I don't begrudge a living salary for Jim Wallis. But, if most American families get along on $50,000 a year, more than twice as much at $110,000, not to mention four times as much at Wallis' current $197,000, does not seem ministry oriented. The "we deserve to live at four times the level of the average American family" salary dilutes the impact of, if not destroys, Sojourners' and Wallis' message about living in a way that cares to diminish economic and social inequality.

I am drawn to the appeal that asks us to care about the poor and treat them well and with respect. That was a big part of Jesus' message. I currently lead a group that supports outreach to needy children in struggling nations. So, it grates whenever donations meant to help the poor are treated as profit rather than as seed money for further outreach.

2 comments:

MAX Redline said...

This sort of thing seems endemic in the crusade industry, which as you note is antithetical to their stated goals. Last time I checked - which was several years ago - the head of Goodwill was paid north of half a million. And of course, one need look no further than HSUS and PeTA to see where most of the donations actually go.

And AlGore made a fortune off "man-made global warming", despite observable evidence that little things like our sun - and the occasional meteor strike - have far greater impact upon our planet's climate than incandescent light bulbs and driving SUVs will ever exert.

But, it's doubtless only a matter of time before passengers on cruise ships are obliged to pack along jars or buckets on their voyages - when the Carnival liner Triumph went dead in the water, after all, passengers pooped into plastic bags! We must enact a ban on plastic bags aboard cruise ships if we hope to Save The Planet™.

But I digress: like you, I find it irritating when donations are treated as profits to be used to line the pockets of the executives.

Good post!

T. D. said...

The litany is long, as your examples here show, of how those doing popular things make their fortunes off of good-hearted people who lack sense. One might add Solyndra and the dozens of other "public spirited" ripoffs you highlight in your blog, Max. Thanks!