Life Members - Are they Robbing Peter to Pay Paul?

I have become aware that few USCF members understand what the Life Membership Assets represent and how the so-called LMA Fund came about.

This raises the question of whether the regular USCF members who send in their dues of $40 every year really understand that part of their dues money has gone to provide services for a group of 11,000 life members, most of whom paid little if any money to the USCF.

This is a sensitive subject in this election year, where only "voting members" are allowed to vote and, of the 453 voting members, 222 are life members, so the so-called "rights" of the life members tend to be given priority over the rights of the regular members.

The current financial figures for the USCF which are posted at show the following:

Assets 3,097,140
Life and Sustaining Memberships Liability 1,949,567
Total Liabilities $ 3,227,436

Thus, if the Life and Sustaining Memberships Liability is excluded, the USCF has a new worth of $ 1,812,721.

From the letters I have received, it appears that many members believe that the amount of $ 1,797,870 which is listed on the balance sheet as "Total Life Membership Assets" represents money which the Life Members paid to the USCF in the past. This is not correct. With the exception of the relatively few life members who have joined in recent years, almost none of the money listed as Total Life Membership Assets actually came from the life members. Rather, these moneys were accumulated by taking part of the $40 dues which the regular members send in each year and reapportioned for the benefit of the life members.

Most Life Members paid $60 or $100 years ago, prior to 1973, or at the most $200, and some of them won their life membership as a prize or were awarded it in recognition of dedicated services to chess.

Back when most of these life memberships were sold or given away, there was no LMA fund. In fairly recent years, especially which Steve Doyle was president, life members became concerned about the fact that their dues had been spent as current income. These life members agitated successfully to have money set aside as a reserve so that the USCF could continue operations even during bad times.

As I recall, the leader among the life members who wanted their "rights" protected was Arnold Denker, who became a life member at the time that he won the 1944 US Championship in a war-affected year.

Since the money received from these life members had long since been spent, calculations were made as to how much money would be needed to fully fund the life memberships, much as an insurance company funds the life insurance policies it has sold.

There are obvious flaws in this, and I really do not think that life memberships in the USCF should be held to the same strict standards as state insurance regulators hold life insurance companies.

Estimates were made as to how much money was needed to be set aside to protect the rights of the life members and then, based on these estimates, money received from the regular members was set aside in a fund for the benefit of the life members.

Since then, new life members who join have most of their dues money put into this fund. The money is then drawn out based on actuarial tables to finance operations.

The amount in the USCF balance sheet of $ 1,949,567 is not owed to anybody, nor has it ever been received from anybody. It is essentially a bookkeeping entry and an estimate of how much money is required to "fund" the life members rights.

In this election year, a number of voting members, especially Bruce Draney, have pounded away on the theme that the USCF is insolvent. I regard such statements to be both untrue and reprehensible. Bruce Draney, a political supporter of Tom Dorsch, has posted 1957 messages to the chess politics news group (far more than anybody else, this figure taken from Dejanews) and the majority of these one thousand nine hundred fifty-seven posts constitute attacks on Bill Goichberg and support of Tom Dorsch.

For example, on July 15, 1999, under the heading "Lets start a death pool for the USCF!", Bruce Draney wrote, "If one group wins and continues to run the organization like it has been run for the past several years, the organization will be toast by 2003."

Again and again, Bruce Draney repeats the theme that the USCF is bankrupt, insolvent and about to go under, all this according to Draney having been caused by Bill Goichberg and his crew (and of course the USCF Treasurer Tom Dorsch is in no way the cause of this.)

I often receive letters from members asking me if they should renew their membership for one year in view of the persistent rumors (obviously perpetuated by Draney, Dorsch and other members of their group) that the USCF is likely to go under within the next year (unless of course the white knight Tom Dorsch is elected).

The question I want to raise, which to my knowledge has never been raised before, is whether it is proper to rob Peter to pay Paul by taking some of the $40 in annual dues sent in by regular members and putting their money into a fund to protect members whose actual dues money was nominal and was spent more than 20 years ago.

Is it like a stock offering where the original promoters of a corporation bought their shares for 10 cents per share but the purchasers of an IPO pay $10 per share? In such a case, the prospectus is required by law to disclose that the new purchasers will have the value of their investment diluted by say $6.57 per share whereas the old investors will have the value of their investment increase by $3.33 per share.

I wonder: Is there something wrong with the fact that new joiners of the USCF have not received a similar disclosure?

I find it significant that the group which wants the "rights" of the life members protected at the expense of the regular members are predominantly those who are also opposed to democracy in chess and who want a small group of predominantly life members to continue to have absolute control over US Chess. Dorsch and Draney are now the main proponents of this anti-democracy group.

Sam Sloan

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