ProSpace or ProMiscuous?
[PREFACE: After this article was posted, some of the external links
were "coincidentally" discontinued by ProSpace friend$...]
This probing article exists because on May 1st, 2002, Marc Schlather (a paid employee of the supposedly not-for-profit and puzzlingly tax-exempt ProSpace "citizens' space lobby") intensely complained to one of us at a George Washington University event about our rather scrutinizing coverage of lobbying groups in our category dedicated to space lobbying organizations. We indicate there which space activism groups refuse to accept sponsorship from aerospace companies. Such sponsorship could create potential conflicts of interest, after all, prompting such groups to support (or sneakily fail to oppose) potential legislation that is against taxpayers' best interest. Such a practice is commonly referred to as "selling out."
Anyhow, it is the contention of many different people that the contents of
space agenda" are influenced much more by sponsorships and potential
benefits for individual ProSpace directors than by what the overall U.S.
aerospace industry really needs in order to finally stop hemorrhaging
marketshare to Europe,
Russia and now
program. We certainly don't want to do a disservice to ProSpace
by giving inaccurate coverage, though, so we are making our evolving analysis
as transparent as possible (in hopes that ProSpace, itself, might become
But did you know that Constellation Services International, Inc. (CSI) "won" a $2.3 million dollar contract from NASA on July 12th of 2002, merely to perform (rather redundant) paper studies and create (rather redundant) viewgraphs? Here's the proof:
Around 2/3's (two thirds) of the competing contestants' proposals were rejected. Is it irrelevant that CSI's director happens to be the founder and former director of ProSpace who resigned a few years ago and hand-picked Marc Schlather as his replacement in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest? Meanwhile, was the treasurer of CSI not the same person who was also the treasurer and chairperson of ProSpace (i.e. Ransom Wuller, who still remains a board member)? Is any overlap between CSI's own agenda and Marc Schlather's lobbying activities in Washington D.C. merely coincidental? Is it inconsequential that CSI cares enough about ProSpace's activities that it is a paying sponsor of ProSpace, as this page states? Are the federal lobbying disclosure laws being adequately respected by this supposedly not-for-profit, peculiarly tax-exempt (501-c4) public interest lobbying entity? And did you know that the Hatch Act prevents civil servants at NASA (etcetera) from lobbying for funding for their projects, even as they do favor$ for external entities which sneakily do precisely that for them?
Incidentally, our sources indicate that over the years
Marc Schlather may have received considerable stock offerings,
or at the very least stock options or something of similar value from
Constellation Services. This has never been denied by them, in fact.
Such benefits may have been given in exchange for doing what,
though? Offering mere marketing consultations? Or securing contracts
to perform paper studies that NASA is so good at seeking from those who would
otherwise credibly criticize NASA's budget in the public arena? Should
that contingent fee of sorts not be registered with the Congressional
Office of Public Records, pursuant to
Congressional regulation? Why has no such registration taken place?
Indeed, if one does a search for "ProSpace America" at the public records online search service available at http://sopr.senate.gov, one can see that pursuant to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, ProSpace never declared having made lobbying-related expenditures in excess of $10,000 per any 6 month period over the past several years. Some of ProSpace's most recent disclosures are individually linked below:
ProSpace's official lobbying disclosures
|ProSpace America 1999 lobbying disclosure|
|ProSpace America 2000 mid-year lobbying disclosure|
|ProSpace America 2000 year-end lobbying disclosure|
|ProSpace America 2001 mid-year lobbying disclosure|
|ProSpace America 2001 year-end lobbying disclosure|
|ProSpace America 2002 lobbying disclosure: none.|
One thing that seems to be rather interesting is the fact that ProSpace president
Marc Schlather does not appear to be registered
as a lobbyist independently of ProSpace, according to
any paid lobbying activities conducted by him on Capitol Hill would
apparently be in representation of ProSpace. Otherwise, would they
be legal if he is not formally registered as a lobbyist?
Meanwhile, if monetarily valuable payments came in exchange for lobbying in representation of both ProSpace and its numerous paying volunteers, and such payments were not formally disclosed in the abovementioned statements, then would that not call into question the legality of what ProSpace has done over the years? Disclosure laws exist for good reasons, including the importance of avoiding deceiving ProSpace's paying volunteers, or our elected officials in Washington D.C., or our government's other employees, or even ProSpace's potential corporate and individual donors. If hidden agendas exist within ProSpace's leadership, then don't we all deserve to be able to find out about them in our democracy, especially when they get puzzlingly tax-exempt status?
Incidentally, former ProSpace Board member and
March Storm director Ed Wright (who had his ProSpace BBS publishing privileges
by ProSpace, unsurprisingly) has called it to folks' attention that ProSpace
has also received sponsorships in the past from entities such as Lockheed
Martin. As the law requires, ProSpace discloses such sponsorship
relationships that it has with corporations (although not its
relationships with individual donors, even though some reportedly have a
great deal of influence over ProSpace's supposedly "public-spirited" citizens'
agenda). If one surfs ProSpace's website long enough one can eventually
find its growing list of corporate donors
Thus far, they include:
ProSpace's disclosed list of corporate sponsors
|Beal Aerospace Technologies, Inc.|
|Constellation Services International, Inc.|
|Instrumentation Technology Associates|
|Kelly Space and Technology|
|Lockheed Martin Skunkworks|
F.I.N.D.S. is not listed though,
and the amount of lobbying activities and expenditures in which FINDS, itself,
can engage is negligible. Has ProSpace adequately disclosed FINDS'
money in the federal forms linked above? Incidentally, did you know
that at least one of ProSpace's directors is a fulltime employee of a major
aerospace government contractor, namely Lockheed Martin (a ProSpace sponsor)?
What do such (often parasitic) government contractors stand to gain
by tolerating the emergence of legal reforms which could benefit more
entrepreneurial potential competitors of theirs in the (shamelessly
declining) U.S. space industry?
Now then, Ed Wright (who isn't the only ProSpace board member to have resigned fairly recently, by any means) has publicly asserted that ProSpace has modified its agenda in ways that directly benefit its directors, at the expense of advocating reforms that could genuinely open up the space frontier. [Please note: most of the links in the following paragraphs no longer work because ProSpace had the BBS where they were maintained suspended.] Indeed, as yet another former ProSpace board member (who voluntarily resigned) has publicly stated, even ProSpace's supposedly public-spirited roundtable discussions held on the Hill and organized with ProSpace resources are reportedly a "for profit" endeavor for the ProSpace director. Has ProSpace even remotely adequately disclosed to its paying volunteers the nature of its financial dealings with such sponsors? Has ProSpace seriously entertained some members' requests for greater transparency regarding how such financial relationships could influence ProSpace to, for example, mysteriously stop criticizing certain unpopular NASA programs even as members of, or close affiliates of, such corporate sponsors seek (and sometimes receive) government contracts from a potentially grateful NASA? Have you ever heard ProSpace's directors say "don't make waves" or "don't risk burning bridges with the government" and subsequently felt rather puzzled by what you were hearing from the directors of the purpotedly "citizens' space lobby"? Have you ever wondered why ProSpace supported the much-maligned Space Launch Initiative program (SLIp) back in 2000 when the U.S. House of Representatives initially decided NOT to fund it, and even as so many citizens and genuine entrepreneurs (as opposed to tax leeches) opposed it? SLI "surprisingly" got fully funded months later and thereby became comparatively untouchable (as ProSpace officials knew it would as a result of their astonishing silence). ProSpace's publicly demanded opposition to SLIp conveniently didn't materialize until AFTER SLI was fully funded, in fact.
As an example of how fundraising ProSpace has neglected its
self-proclaimed mission to help the citizens as opposed to itself, it's worth
considering the efficiency-encouraging and cost-reducing topic of
prizes. A former ProSpace board member and March Storm director
requested that ProSpace somehow embrace the prizes concept in time
for March Storm 2002. However, even
drafted and submitted various versions of prizes to ProSpace in a
sufficiently timely manner,
were found for every solution and nothing meaningful was done.
Simultaneously Marc Schlather independently told this
article's main author, a volunteer attorney who had made numerous patient
requests for ProSpace's embracing of NASA-funded space prizes, that in order
for any kind of prizes proposal to be worth submitting to Capitol Hill by
ProSpace, (somehow) all sorts of different complex matters including FAA
licensing issues (etcetera) supposedly had to be resolved first. Indeed,
despite this author's politeness and years of supportiveness regarding both
ProSpace and the independent cause of finally opening up the space frontier
to the masses, Marc was somehow in too
much of a hurry to answer other people's e-mails or talk for more than a
couple of minutes on the phone regarding this issue. Is it merely
coincidental that some government contract-seeking (and formerly as well
as potentially ProSpace-sponsoring) companies are anything but enthused with
the competition-inspiring prizes concept that could threaten their
Meanwhile, is it not disgraceful that NASA's latest experimentation with the prizes approach (as reflected in the first portion of this page) received absolutely no support, whatsoever, for years from the predictably excuse-making, foot-dragging and smooth-talking if not downright deceptive "Citizen's Space Lobby"? ProSpace was well aware of how NASA's prizes proposal, which was made possible by Lori Garver a few years ago, was subsequently shot down by Congress. Despite having this knowledge, the prizes concept supposedly required too much work, or something to that effect, for inclusion in March Storm 2002 (or in any other March Storm citizens' agenda, for that matter). Now then, would YOU invest further time trying to please the ProSpace decision-makers with any kind of pro-humanity space reform proposal now that that organization appears to be so co-opted? Predictably, ProSpace will deny being co-opted but who ever willingly admits to being corrupted? And is it not outrageous that NASA would subsidize this sort of operation with a $2.3 million dollar contract to CSI?
Have you ever felt surprised to see a supposed watchdog
In conclusion, perhaps our requests for greater
ProSpace transparency are naive. Nevertheless, Mr.
Schlather passionately asked for justifications of our skepticism
back on May 1st of 2002 so in the interests of fairness to ProSpace
(and the citizens of our democracy) this publicly available article remains
a work in progress. Although to our knowledge Marc predictably has
yet to successfully refute any of what is stated here, we ask you
to please feel free to offer us feedback or additional facts, etcetera, at:
As this article is maintained by a licensed volunteer attorney,
confidentiality will be respected if clearly requested. We simply seek
Below we maintain a copy of the similarly tax-exempt, not-for-profit National Space Society's admirable Conflict of Interest Policy. Does Prospace's management even come close to conforming to this sort of guideline?
National Space Society
Conflict of Interest Statement
A. All Directors and officers (Leaders) of the National Space Society shall be alert to and avoid conflicts - potential or real - between their own personal or financial interests, and those of the NSS; and between the interests of other organizations of which they are board members or officers and the interests of the NSS.
B. A Leader, having or suspecting a conflict of interest on any matter, shall not vote or otherwise participate in the matter and shall absent him/herself during the review and vote on the decisions in question. The minutes of the meeting shall reflect that a disclosure was made, the abstention from voting, the absence from the room during the review and vote, and the quorum situation. The foregoing requirements shall not be construed as preventing the Leader from providing the board with any and all relevant information known by the Leader having a conflict. When there is a doubt as to whether a conflict of interest exists, the matter shall be resolved by a vote of the Board of Directors, such vote to be advisory to the Leader concerning whose situation the doubt has arisen. If, by majority vote, the Board of Directors advises that a conflict exists, the Leader having the conflict shall take immediate action to resolve the conflict.
C. Leaders shall not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity or made by that governing body. Nor shall said Leaders make sales to or purchases from this corporation (this does not preclude purchases or products or services at prices offered publicly) or receive any compensation or fees for services to this corporation (this does not preclude the reimbursement of pre-approved expenses incurred in the service of the Society) without the prior approval of the governing body. Leaders shall disclose any financial interest in any matter coming before the governing body.
D. Leaders agree they shall not disclose confidential information about NSS discussions or plans. Official statements on behalf of the Society to media representatives shall be made solely by the President, Chair of the Executive Committee, the Executive Director, or their designee. (This does not preclude any Director from taking a personal public opinion on any issue. Directors, however, need to be aware that, as a Director of NSS, his/her public remarks can reflect on the Society.)
E. Before assuming office, elected or appointed, each Leader shall disclose to the Society, in writing, his or her other office, board seat, employment, or investment in any other space-industry related business, organization, association, or going concern that is a real or potential conflict with NSS - financial interests, policies, or philosophy. (This is not meant to include members of the honorary Boards of Governors and Advisors.)
This conflict of interest policy shall be reviewed annually. All new directors and officers shall be advised of the provisions of this policy prior to undertaking their duties.
I acknowledge receipt and have read the above Conflict of Interest Statement and I agree to abide by its provisions during my tenure as an NSS officer or director.
Marc Schlather's bio...
Posted in 2000 here: http://www.prospace.org/prospace/bios/schlather.htm
Vice President of Communications
Marc Schlather is Vice President for Communications for ProSpace. In addition he serves as Managing Editor of ProSpace OnLine and Coordinator of the Space Transportation Incentives Campaign. A self-confessed "policy wonk", Mr. Schlather joined ProSpace in 1997. He was attracted to the organization in large part due to a life-long interest in space exploration and his feeling that space issues were no longer a priority in Washington. "ProSpace has been able to re-create a conversation within Congress about this issue"² he observes. "That conversation will help this country and the rest of the world move the space age into the next millennium." Mr. Schlather is President of The Results Group, a marketing strategies firm based in Arlington, Virginia. He is a graduate of the University of Denver, receiving a B.A. in Mass Communications in 1976.