There are only two things certain in life, as the saying goes, and a byproduct of one of them requires nonprofit organizations to file paperwork with the IRS. So now that the deceptively named “Humane Society” of the United States (HSUS) has submitted its "Form 990" for 2008, we thought it was time to take a close look. The tax filing itself is a bit more detailed than ones in the past, thanks to some new IRS rules. And more detail equals a clearer picture of exactly what HSUS is doing — and what it's not doing — with all its money. [Click here to view the full document.]

HSUS reported spending almost $20 million on “campaigns, legislation, and litigation”—enough to worry any livestock farmer or hunter looking to keep their chosen lifestyle alive. The group collected over $86 million in contributions, and spent more than $24 million on fundraising, including $4 million on professional fundraisers. Think about it: 28 cents of every dollar contributed to HSUS goes back out the door to raise more money. HSUS even paid a single “lockbox” company more than $4.2 million to count and process its cash hauls. We won’t comment on that company’s curious "ALF" initials (for Arizona Lockbox & Fulfillment).

The bottom line is the same as it ever was: HSUS rakes in millions from unsuspecting Americans who may confuse the animal rights group with an unaffiliated local humane society. And with all this cash flying around, it’s no surprise that 41 HSUS employees made at least $100,000 last year. All told, HSUS paid out over $30.9 million in salaries, wages, and other employee compensation.

HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle earned more than $250,000 in salary and benefits in 2008. We wouldn’t begrudge him a large salary, of course: He runs an animal-rights business “charity,” after all.

But the real trouble lies in where most HSUS money doesn’t go: to pet shelters. In contrast with the group’s extravagant spending on people, HSUS’s total grant allocation was less than $4.7 million. And of that, almost half went to a political campaign committee called “Californians for Humane Farms,” the main lobbying organization responsible for California’s “Proposition 2” ballot initiative.

For all the cute pictures of puppies and kitties on HSUS paraphernalia, you’d think it would operate a pet shelter, or at least give a substantial portion of its money to one. But HSUS has lobbying to do, a PETA-inspired agenda to push, meat eaters to stigmatize, and livestock farmers to put out to pasture. Lobbying? Oh, yes. HSUS takes four full pages to detail its lobbying activities on the state and federal levels.

With all the politicking going on, the animals—remember them?—seem to get lost in the shuffle. We added up the totals, and HSUS gave only a little more than $450,000—that’s just half of one percent of its total budget—in grants to organizations providing hands-on care to dogs and cats. That’s less than 11 percent of what it paid “ALF” (see above) just to count its money.

We’re musing today about HSUS’s next big self-marketing blitz, and some new slogans it might want to use. Our favorite? “HSUS: Feed the lawyers, save the fundraisers, screw the pets.”