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How is ICANN Spending Your Money?

ICANN has released their IRS Form 990 statements for the year ending June 30, 2008. They’re summarized in 2-parts here (redacted) and here (unredacted).

ICANN says they use for-profit companies as comparables when determining employee compensation. However, even in the middle of a great recession, salaries have been going up, up, and up! How many for-profit companies have the job security of ICANN staff, and have been seeing raises during a recession? In my opinion, ICANN needs to be using non-profit organizations as comparables, organizations like the NTIA, DOC, DOJ, universities, hospitals and similar groups. Anything above those non-profit salaries is a waste of your money.

By George Kirikos, President, Leap of Faith Financial Services Inc.

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Yay, it's George's broken record again. While David Goldstein  –  Jun 18, 2009 1:48 AM

Yay, it’s George’s broken record again. While you’re at it George, don’t forget to add as a comparison not-for-profits such as the large foundations in the U.S. the Gates Foundation for example.

I’d hate you to be selective in your choice of what a not-for-profit is.

And obviously you’ve never worked for a not-for-profit. Many, and I repeat many, not-for-profits see that to compete with the for-profit sectors for staff they have to compete with salary and benefits. It’s called a package.

So don’t just look at salaries, add in all the other benefits too, and what each job entails. Have you done that? Of course not.

Robin Gross of the NCUC certainly is George Kirikos  –  Jun 18, 2009 2:30 AM

Robin Gross of the NCUC certainly is familiar with non-profits. She appears to agree with me calling the level of salaries “stunning.” While stunning can sometimes be used as a compliment, I don’t think she intended it in that manner.

And since you continue to list ICANN as a client you certainly benefit from their spending on consultants. Only someone defending ICANN to ridiculous extremes would cite the Gates Foundation as a relevant comparable. Those foundations take in voluntary contributions, unlike ICANN which taxes consumers and is unaccountable to consumers. Note the comparables I provided, namely the NTIA/DOC/DOJ, and universities (ICANN’s functions were originally performed by a universitiy and if one takes a look at the root server operators list, they’re present). Military salaries might be relevant comparables, too.

If you’re trying to suggest ICANN staff somehow “deserve” their salaries because of their performance, might I remind you that this is the same organization that flushed away $4.6 million speculating in the financial markets with their emergency reserve fund. Or, folks should watch Twomey being questioned by the US government to see how Washington feels about ICANN’s mismanagement.

Haven't we been here before? Kieren McCarthy  –  Jun 18, 2009 2:53 AM

I'm pretty sure this exact same issue was covered last year. In the end, I recall, an extensive explanation was given, all the details were published in the Annual Report, and there was a constituency of one (Mr Kirikos) who remained unhappy about it. Isn't it time we rehashed the investment losses from last year and made them out to be irresponsible speculation rather than the inevitable result of a global economic decline? What do you mean we already have? So that only leaves tiered pricing and dismissing expert economic reports. Kieren McCarthy

What a surprise, Kieren comes to help George Kirikos  –  Jun 18, 2009 4:09 AM

What a surprise, Kieren comes to help out David—deja vu all over again. Impress me and find someone not on ICANN’s payroll or a consultant or a self-interested party seeking ICANN’s favour to defend your views. The Form 990 even shows ICANN spending $240,000 lobbying in Washington. Given the video testimony, it doesn’t seem to be working. In the videos, Twomey was usually the “constituency of one.”

I don’t write my articles for folks on ICANN’s payroll. I write them for those objective 3rd parties who can see beyond ICANN’s attempts at obfuscation, but don’t have the time to dig through the documents and ICANN’s poorly organized website. ICANN didn’t make any announcement about the Form 990, did they? No, I found it. I also know the number of people who’ve downloaded the unredacted version from my website, including their IP addresses (hi VeriSign!). Folks can watch the videos for themselves, and see if I’m a “constituency of one” or representative of a lot of folks who feel the same way. The Feds even mentioned the $4.6 million losses. That was irresponsible speculation by ICANN (and continues to be so), as one isn’t supposed to gamble with an emergency reserve fund. Learn the difference between an endowment and an emergency reserve.

And since you brought up tiered pricing, one can see the response of the public to that issue. It wasn’t the overpaid lawyers at ICANN that detected the flaw in the contracts—I did. Yet, Jones Day and ICANN staff lawyers are seeing big pay days and raises. These same lawyers reintroduced the issue in the new gTLDs Draft Guidebooks (through the elimination of price caps), compelling people to refight the “exact same issue.” Exact same issues need to be brought up because ICANN doesn’t learn from its past mistakes.

And since you brought up the “expert economic reports”, anyone can verify that others feel the same way describing them as “whitewash reports.” The comments on the final report were of a similar nature.

Why don’t you focus on your job, and work on public participation, Kieren? How long have you worked at ICANN now, yet there is still limited remote participation, no live video, etc.? Wasn’t that your job? By any metric, you’ve not accomplished much. Go count the number of comments on the official ICANN blog. Compare that to real sites like CircleID, DomainNameWire.com, and other blogs. Go see how DomainNameWire.com described DomainNews.com. It’s no surprise you both have time to try to attack real news on other sites, because you’re not investing much time in creating original news that is of value to the public.

Hopefully the new CEO of ICANN will find effective people to replace the overpaid and underwhelming performers at ICANN.

Yep, all the checkboxes Kieren McCarthy  –  Jun 18, 2009 4:34 AM

So now we've got the tiered pricing and the economic reports. And it's finished off with the final checkbox - personal abuse. See you again next time. Kieren

ICANN staffers don't play the role of George Kirikos  –  Jun 18, 2009 4:48 AM

ICANN staffers don’t play the role of “victim” well. Was Twomey experiencing “personal abuse” in DC, by your twisted definition? Whenever someone asks a tough question or points out inconvenient truths, the typical ICANN response is to deny, obfuscate, run away or cry for a wambulance. Great work, Kieren, 4 for 4!

Been here before? We haven't moved! The Famous Brett Watson  –  Jun 18, 2009 4:49 AM

Isn’t it time we rehashed the investment losses from last year and made them out to be irresponsible speculation rather than the inevitable result of a global economic decline?

Why rehash when you can just review our earlier discussion? A cynic’s summary (and summary-in-anticipation of future discussion) is that everyone but the ICANN insiders and bedfellows thought that investing emergency reserve funds in stocks and bonds was reprehensibly irresponsible. The (ir)responsible parties at ICANN have since been censured to the full extent demanded by their accountability, which is to say “not at all” (other than a few harsh but ultimately impotent words from bloggers).

In the aforementioned discussion, John Levine berated ICANN for treating the emergency reserve fund as an endowment—a line of criticism that its targets repeatedly failed to comprehend, whether by deliberate obtuseness or genuine incompetence. I don’t know what it takes to establish an endowment, but it seems that we should aim for ICANN having exactly that kind of financial independence, just to render all this disagreement over salaries and whatnot moot. ICANN should be sized so as to perform its required administrative tasks, not be allowed to bloat with the increasing availability of registration funds. Once ICANN is no longer dependent on registration fees for its continued existence, it will be freed from its fundamental conflict of interest in that regard, and be able to delegate the task of registry operation with greatly reduced opportunity for corruption.

Brett: Go watch the testimony in DC George Kirikos  –  Jun 18, 2009 5:06 AM

Brett: Go watch the testimony in DC linked to above -- the politicians brought up the $4.6 million, and they brought up Twomey's salary, and so on. It was a joy to watch (unless one happens to work at ICANN). See a story about it on one of the domain blogs where the finances are specifically mentioned. As one person in the comments noted, it's the congressional staffers who do the research, and they come to sites like CircleID to find original research. At ICANN's site, they only find carefully controlled spin, except for the public comments by 3rd parties.

I see George, you still don't deal David Goldstein  –  Jun 18, 2009 12:01 PM

I see George, you still don’t deal with the issue I raised, that is you don’t compare like with like. Come on, just do it. You tell me you’re a financial genius.

So why aren’t you wanting to compare the salaries of ICANN staff with larger not-for-profits such as the Gates Foundation on one of the others?

My issue is you go for the lowest common denominator.

And that it’s not in your interest to compare like with like.

Asked and answered George Kirikos  –  Jun 18, 2009 1:09 PM

Only you would consider ICANN to be in the same league as the Gates Foundation. Your question has been asked and answered. NTIA/DOC/DOJ, universities, hospitals, and the military are much more comparable. It’s you that wishes to put your head in the sand.

Feel free to keep ignoring DomainNameWire.com’s description of DomainNews.com of which you’re an editor. The comments to that article demonstrate the editors need to improve quite a bit. If you’re looking to add someone to your team, Kieren seems to be the kind of “journalist” you’d appreciate.

One level Kieren McCarthy  –  Jun 18, 2009 10:36 PM

These attempts to highlight potential issues with ICANN would carry significantly more weight if any questioning of them was not immediately met with personal slights and abuse rather than considered review. Either there is a valid point - in which case the more something is talked about, the stronger the argument becomes - or it is a misunderstood or misleading angle put on a series of facts. As it was the last time this issue was discussed, this post is the latter. Besmirching anyone that does not agree is not going to disguise the fact that the analysis presented here is fundamentally flawed. Kieren

The boy who cried wolf George Kirikos  –  Jun 18, 2009 11:34 PM

Kieren: re-read the links above where you claimed “abuse” before about Mac stories and commentary. You don’t play the victim well. If you wish to keep this thread alive, keep replying with your disinformation.

Anyone can watch the DC videos and see that ICANN’s spending was and is on the agenda, whether you like it or not. See 10:20 into the 3rd Youtube video, for example, when the other witnesses argue for lower fees. 10:50 or so goes into Twomey’s compensation (and 11:58 talks about his compensation). It must have been painful to watch the entire video for you. Even VeriSign wasn’t on ICANN’s side. The politicians are in touch with reality. The other witnesses are in touch with reality. There were multiple times (starting around 14:00 into the 3rd Youtube video) that the witnesses were all asked a yes/no question, and it was 4-1, with Paul Twomey being the “constituency of one.” It’s Twomey and ICANN who are out of touch with reality. The numbers in the Form 990 do not lie. They are undeniable facts.

Ahh George. You've got no facts to David Goldstein  –  Jun 19, 2009 2:12 AM

Ahh George. You’ve got no facts to back up your story so you divert attention.

I see you are very selective in what a not-for-profit is. It seems the only NFPs want to compare ICANN too are those that back up your hard right views in that those working for an NFP are not worthy and should be paid accordingly. That is, those who work in the NFP field should be paid peanuts.

So as I said, compare job descriptions, salaries AND benefits, and then this is a debate worth having.

Until you do, it just shows your incompetence.

I also see no reason why working for any NFP should mean you have to accept a lesser package. Can you give me one?

Once again, David, you've not read what George Kirikos  –  Jun 19, 2009 12:08 PM

Once again, David, you’ve not read what I’ve written. The numbers are the facts. They speak plainly. Nice dodge of the DomainNameWire.com story of how DomainNews.com works, by the way. What “facts” have you introduced to support your arguments? None! The numbers (in my two messages on the BC list linked to in the initial article, the article about “comparables” from last year, and in my comments) are the only place one can find numbers. Maybe, David, you should look into buying a better computer, one that has a numeric keypad? 

People in the not-for-profit world earn less than in the for-profit world. That’s a fact, as you are fully aware. You can say “I see no reason why” until the cows come home, but it’s a fact. Job security and the desire to give back through public service are 2 reasons for the difference. Lawyers in the for-profit world are getting pink slips. That’s not happening at ICANN, obviously, even when their performance is inferior. Let me repeat that, even when their performance is inferior. The lawyers at ICANN are responsible for reviewing contracts, yet they were the ones that left in the big loophole that would have permitted tiered pricing when the .biz/info/org contracts were negotiated. Did any of those lawyers get fired? In the real world, when you make such an enormous mistake, you face consequences. Not at ICANN.

And these same lawyers re-introduced the loophole in the draft new gTLD guidebooks. In other words, they repeated their mistakes. Once again, the job security at ICANN is much higher than at any real world job where there is accountability. One only needs to watch Twomey’s performance in DC again (painful, I know) to verify that folks can last a long time at ICANN who simply aren’t up to par.

People working at NTIA, DOC, DOJ, ISI/USC (predecessor of ICANN) are certainly not paid peanuts. Those are some of the comparables. Consumers want their money spent wisely, and it’s obvious ICANN isn’t doing that. I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with another “excuse” each time this is pointed out, as a diversionary tactic, but rewatch the DC videos—it’s just not working.

ICANN only publishes the salaries because they’re compelled to do so by law. It’s the bare minimum. ICANN could tell us, for example, what percentile their salaries would be in the non-profit field (they’re already above-average in the for-profit world!) I’m sure they don’t do so in order to avoid the embarrassment of making it even clearer how out of touch their compensation is with reality, and how they’re not doing the most to reduce fees for consumers. As one person testified, ICANN acts as if it is accountable only to itself, instead of the public that it purports to serve, and their compensation practices add to the mountain of evidence of that lack of accountability.

As I said Geoge, it aint just David Goldstein  –  Jun 19, 2009 12:19 PM

As I said Geoge, it aint just numbers that make up a package of what people are paid and you won’t acknowledge that. You’re the one claiming ICANN staff are overpaid. So you do the fair comparison. And you are incapable of it. I’m not claiming they are overpaid, underpaid or fairly paid.

And if you have a problem with DomainNews, fine, don’t read it. It’s your choice. And if you want to complain about it, complain to the people who run it, not me.

As for people in the NFP sector not being made redundant? Really? You really do live in an isolated world.

David: I did do the fair comparison. George Kirikos  –  Jun 19, 2009 1:04 PM

David: I did do the fair comparison. Take a look at the year-over-year salary increases that I linked to, and the numbers are all there to make the comparison. Just because you’re not convinced doesn’t mean much. If Twomey was making $5 million/yr, you’d remain unconvinced. If they lost $20 million of their reserve fund, you’d remain unconvinced. Notice once again you refuse to cite numbers (broken numeric keypad??), or even provide links to supporting references.

You’re listed as an “Editor” of DomainNews.com. Thus, when Andrew was “calling you out”, that meant people like you who should know better. Of course, in your world, just like at ICANN, you avoid accountability.

And how many people at ICANN have been made redundant? They not only keep around those whose performance are inferior (like the lawyers who produce flawed contracts I mentioned above), they hire new people (all paid for by consumers ultimately) to engage in new wasteful spending.

And to reinforce how you’ve continually only spoken in hyperbole and rhetoric, with no facts or numbers or references or links or citations, let me highlight the difference between you and me by pointing out a link I found in 2 minutes. What were their conclusions?

Our conclusion, in fact, is that a nonprofit firm that wishes to hire a manager will do better by offering a lower monetary wage and attracting a more committed individual while using the usual signals of education and experience to screen for quality. If correct, this theory explains why nonprofit institutions tend to pay their managers a lower wage than that paid to similarly qualified managers in for-profits. Lower wages attract managers that are more committed to the cause of the nonprofit, and the process is made easier for such managers by the fact that a low managerial income earned in a nonprofit is less detrimental to social status than a low managerial income earned in for-profit. (emphasis added)

You can't even do what any HR David Goldstein  –  Jun 19, 2009 1:58 PM

You can’t even do what any HR manager would do when they are assessing salary packages. You are incompetent. As for my work with DomainNews, I do what I do and it’s fine. You’re so incompetent you wouldn’t even know who does what on the site.

Thanks! George Kirikos  –  Jun 19, 2009 2:20 PM

Being called “incompetent” by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about is a compliment, thank you. Yet again, you have no numbers, no references, no links, no citations. You were upset in the previous thread that you’ve never published in peer reviewed journals, whereas my work has been published in peer reviewed journals.

The average height of German males is greater than the average height of Japanese males. Now, Tom’s height is above the average for Germans. Question: How does Tom’s height compare to those of Japanese males?

Mathematically, A > B. C > A. How does C compare to B?

(when you ultimately figure it out, substitute: A = average compensation at for-profit companies, B = the same for non-profit organizations, and C = ICANN’s staff compensation)

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

Oh George... all I've asked for is David Goldstein  –  Jun 19, 2009 11:02 PM

Oh George… all I’ve asked for is a fair comparison that any junior HR worker would do that takes into account the package of benefits relating to the work done. You won’t do it. And you still see people working for NFP’s as lesser deserving as those who work for the private sector.

So to say I don’t know what I am talking about seems strange when you won’t deal with the issue at hand and go to all manner of lengths to avoid it.

A different point of view R. Shawn Gunnarson  –  Jun 22, 2009 2:11 PM

Let me suggest that the salaries of ICANN’s staff members matter for political reasons and not just because they seem high for a nonprofit corporation, per se. ICANN wants to break free of the supervisory relationship that the U.S. government has exercised since its creation. Advocating the termination of the JPA is only one means of achieving that end. The few decisionmakers in Washington who are following the issue have expressed skepticism at the notion of letting ICANN go its own way. A key reason for such skepticism lies with an apparent lack of genuine accountability: ICANN seems largely answerable only to itself. This criticism is unusually bipartisan and bicameral. That Dr. Twomey’s salary has tripled in five years, while the number of stakeholder complaints about ICANN’s actual workproduct has increased, damages ICANN’s credibility. From a political perspective, the crucial point about ICANN’s salaries is that they give critics reason to question whether ICANN is conducting its business in the interest of the Internet community or in its self-interest. And that question heightens the growing sense of concern about ICANN’s accountability. Until that concern is resolved to Washington’s satisfaction, ICANN’s push for autonomy probably will continue sailing into significant political headwinds.

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