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The $115,000 Question

July 25th, 2013

dalrympleA loyal reader of this site pointed our attention to a curious entry in the tax returns filed by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in 2005 and 2006. In 2005, the organization spent $63,500 on something identified only as “book project.” They spent $52,227 more the next year. Their 2006 tax return lists “the Sturgis Group” as “authors” of the book they are funding. (See p. 10 of this document.) But there was never a book published after this date with the FMSF or the Sturgis Group listed as the author. Indeed, there was never even an announcement in the FMSF Newsletter informing its members that a book they spent more than $100,000 on had been published. One wonders why.

Here is what we have surmised from the available evidence. The president of the Sturgis Group is Mark Lasswell; the address for his advertising and promotion business is a Park Avenue apartment building where he lives with his wife, Clare McHugh, who happens to be the daughter of Dr. Paul R. McHugh, a controversial professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins. Dr. McHugh is listed as the sole author of a book published in 2008 called Try to Remember. The book reads like an FMSF newsletter. So it is not surprising that the preface states that Pamela Freyd suggested the book and “patiently supported” it. But there is no indication what kind of support Freyd, the Executive Director of the FMSF, provided. The preface also acknowledges a “yearlong collaboration” whereby McHugh’s daughter Clare “helped [him] put down an accessible draft.” Dr. McHugh mentions her “devotion,” but there is no mention of what happened behind-the-scenes: the FMSF paid Dr. McHugh’s daughter and her husband up to $115,727 to “author” this book.

The book was heralded by the FMSF on the opening pages of this newsletter; but the Foundation did not reveal anything about its significant financial interest in the project. Nor did Dr. McHugh disclose that his book received significant financial support from an advocacy organization. Disclosures of this nature are expected, of course, by the ethical norms and policies for scientists. The $115,000 question is why neither Dr. McHugh nor the FMSF decided to disclose their financial connection when the book was published. Was Dr. McHugh trying to create the false impression of having done this work independent of any financial support from an organization that is discussed favorably in his book? Did the FMSF conclude that the book would appear more scholarly if the public was unaware of their six-figure subsidy? Would reviewers have been more skeptical had they known this was practically a work-for-hire by the FMSF?

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