Tesla CEO Elon Musk isn’t made of money, but he sure has a lot of it. Of the billions he’s amassed over the years from his early days at PayPal, and now as CEO of SpaceX and electric car company Tesla, a big chunk every year is siphoned through his tax-exempt Musk Foundation.
The Guardian went through Musk’s charitable foundation tax filings from 2002 to 2016 and spotted some highlights and big-ticket donations that overall added up to $54 million in the years since it started in 2001. The foundation’s website, a simple Yahoo site created back then that simply states its mission in Times font, explains that money is given to certain organizations:
– Renewable energy research and advocacy
– Human space exploration research and advocacy
– Pediatric research
– Science and engineering education
– Development of safe artificial intelligence to benefit humanity
How some of its giving fits into this list isn’t always clear. In 2012, the foundation gave $10,000 to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a Santa Cruz, California, nonprofit with the purpose “to fund the Temple of Whollyness at Burning Man 2013.”
Here’s some footage of the Musk-funded temple, which was burned at the end of the gathering in the Nevada desert. Musk was quoted in the New York Times in 2014 about the festival: “If you haven’t been, you just don’t get it.”
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame received $10,400 in 2012 as well. As the form states, the money is intended to “educate visitors, fans, and scholars about the history and continuing significance of rock-and-roll music.” No mention as to whether Musk sees himself as a rock star.
A Los Angeles traffic group called Angelenos Against Gridlock received three payments of $25,000. Musk has consistently said he hates traffic — so much so that he’s started another company, the Boring Company, to dig tunnels under LA.
The LA group no longer exists, but an archived version of their website, endinggridlock.org, lists Elon Musk first in big font in a section that says, “We acknowledge the generous support of our top donors.”
Pick a random year and the corresponding 990 tax form is filled with donations ranging from $500 to more than $100,000 given to science and space organizations, disease research groups, schools like Musk’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, or Arizona State University or a CalTech HIV research lab. There’s even a gift to the Clinton Foundation to support the Clinton Climate Initiative with $24,800.
In the most recent form from 2016, the foundation gave $10 million to YC for “scientific research” —the Guardian tied that to startup incubator Y Combinator and its founder Sam Altman.
Musk’s billions sure get around.