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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

STILL FUDGING THE NUMBERS: Michael Moore Dizzy Spinning So-Called “Facts” Regarding Traverse City Film Festival Finances But Quarterly Financial Statements, Forensic Audit Results Moore Publicly Promised To Deliver In 2018 Never Materialized

“Two years ago the 990 we filed to the IRS showed a loss of $486,000. A year ago we showed a loss of $417,000. The 990 that we’re just filing now for this past year will show that Susan Fisher and Meg Weichman have turned the festival around and have repaired the damage done by a previous iteration of festival management and they have reduced it from $486,000 to $60,000. And during the founders picnic a few nights ago, I said, ‘We’re only $60,000 from being in the black when this festival opens.’ And within four minutes, I was pledged by a dozen people $60,000.” 
Michael Moore, Traverse Ticker

In a puff-piece appearing in today's Traverse Ticker, Oscar-winning film director (and part-time Traverse City resident) Michael Moore tries to divert attention from any unfinished business stemming from the Traverse City Film Festival's 2018 financial blow-up, instead promoting the appearances of Detroit native Lily Tomlin and comedian Kathy Griffin.

Nice try, but Moore undercuts any legitimacy by playing loosey-goosey with the “facts”.

According to IRS guidelines, its form 990 is an annual information return required to be filed with the IRS by most organizations exempt from income tax under section 501(a), and certain political organizations and nonexempt charitable trusts.

For organizations on a calendar year (like the Traverse City Film Festival), the Form 990 is due on May 15th of the following year. As the festival has historically filed for a six-month extension, the most recent fiscal year report available is the 2017 report.

As you can see above, the festival showed a $-456,196 loss in 2016 and $-486,346 in 2017. 

But Moore claimed the IRS Form “990 that we’re just filing now for this past year” (presumably 2018) “repaired the damage done by a previous iteration of festival management” and reduced the deficit from $486,000 to $60,000.

Although Moore didn't clarify his remarks about the financial health of the festival, the transcriber reporter apparently didn't press for details or even seek independent proof.

If he had, we might have discovered why financial transparency promises Moore made nearly one year ago during a community meeting at the Old Town Playhouse never materialized: 

“Beginning in a few months, at the end of 2018, we’re going to begin issuing annual reports,” he said. 
“We’re going to actually publish on the website not only the 990s (nonprofit IRS statements), but also the quarterly financial statements. You’ll be able to look at what the bank has, and what we have, and you’ll be able to see everything. That’s the way it’s going to be from now on.” 

Moore also said the festival had ordered a forensic audit of its finances this year.

Or why in 2016 nearly $52,000 of festival revenue was spent on Moore's private State Run Films distribution service, leaving a net loss to the festival of $-14,455.

Or that a public claim, issued in 2014 via a film festival press release, that Moore and former wife Kathleen Glynn, via their private foundation, donated $250,000 to the Traverse City Film Festival that year was directly contradicted by the foundation’s (Center for Alternative Media & Culture) 2014 Form 990-PF federal tax filing.

Or why career-ending allegations Moore made against former festival director, Deb Lake, soundly debunked by Lake, were dismissed by Moore with this perplexing comment: “there’s nothing else to say about the past except that the past is no longer the present.” 

And those purported pledges to donate $60,000, ostensibly made during this year's founders' picnic, will have very little to do with the festival ultimately “being in the black” for the current fiscal year, ending December 31, 2019. 

That information will not be made public until November 2020.

Boosterism passing for journalism...pfft!

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