The national organization for Black Lives Matter appears to have used an unusual accounting maneuver to further delay reporting what became of its $60 million bankroll from 2020, a move one charity watchdog called “the worst transparency issue” she has ever seen.
Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, the charity that serves as the face of the national BLM movement, quietly changed its 12-month accounting cycle to July through June. By going from a calendar to a fiscal year, BLM has until mid-May to report what it did with the millions that flooded into its coffers beginning in the second half of 2020. The move enabled BLM to report a sparse, short-year Form 990 to the IRS that covered its activities during only the first half of 2020, when the entity was entirely dormant as a fiscally sponsored project of the California charity Thousand Currents. It was also the period just before BLM exploded as a cause celeb following George Floyd’s racially charged death.
“Given the money involved here, this is really unbelievable,” CharityWatch Executive Director Laurie Styron told the Washington Examiner. “To not know who is in charge of $60+ million collected by the national charity arm of arguably the most prominent social justice movement in the country is the worst transparency issue I have seen in my 18 years as a charity watchdog.”
In July 2020, BLM broke away from Thousand Currents, and by the end of the year, it had received authorization from the IRS to operate as a charity effective August 2020.
Thousand Currents dumped $66.5 million directly into BLM’s coffers in October 2020, according to an asset transfer agreement previously reported by the Washington Examiner, and BLM disclosed to California on Friday that it began accepting direct contributions in late August 2020. But that transaction won’t appear until BLM files its next 990 form, due by May 15, 2022.
Before BLM provided a copy of its short-year 2020 Form 990 to the Washington Examiner on Monday, there was no indication that the charity had changed its accounting year from calendar to fiscal. When BLM requested a 6-month extension with the IRS to file its 2020 finances, the group explicitly stated its 2020 tax year ran January through December.
BLM’s short-year 2020 Form 990 was signed by BLM board member Shalomyah Bowers and was dated Nov. 11, 2021. BLM did not return numerous requests for comment asking when it decided to change its fiscal year and whether the move was made deliberately to buy itself more time to report its finances.
“For everyone’s sake, I hope that this change in accounting period was not a strategic move to defer transparency on the status of the $66+ million the charity received from its fiscal sponsor in the fourth quarter of 2020,” Styron said.
“Adequate oversight of the nonprofit sector can’t occur if the public doesn’t have access to timely information,” Styron added. “In the event that any of this $66+ million was mismanaged, every day that goes by makes it less and less likely that any potential mismanagement can be fully reconciled or corrected. Time is of the essence.”
Alan Dye, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who specializes in nonprofit law, told the Washington Examiner that BLM’s move to change its fiscal year was “unusual and irregular,” but he added that it “may not be in violation of IRS rules,” which allow for charities to change accounting period by filing a short-year Form 990.
Black activists have been sounding the alarm for years about BLM’s lack of financial support to local BLM activists while also providing no acceptable financial transparency surrounding the millions under its control.
BLM will have to report its five highest compensated independent contractors who received more than $100,000 between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, when it files its next Form 990.
BLM likely paid a substantial amount in contracting fees in 2020. The charity reported to the IRS in August 2020, when it applied for tax-exempt status, that it expected to incur precisely $12,706,366 in “Professional Fees” expenditures in 2020.
All three key BLM stakeholders that were in control of the charity before Patrisse Cullors resigned in May 2021 were closely tied to or were in direct control of consulting firms that claimed to do business with BLM.
The father of Cullors’s only child, Damon Turner, runs Trap Heals, a California-based art company that used to serve as BLM’s “lead developer of the art & cultural efforts,” according to business records previously reported by the Daily Caller. BLM’s political action committee paid Trap Heals nearly $150,000 to co-produce an election night live stream in November 2020 mired with technical problems that industry experts said should have cost a fraction of the price to produce.
Cullors owns a consulting firm called Janaya and Patrisse Consulting, through which she received payments upward of $20,000 a month in 2019 from Reform LA Jails, a Los Angeles-based jail reform group Cullors used to lead.
Bowers runs a consulting firm called Bowers Consulting, which lists BLM as a client on its website. Bowers has served as the treasurer for numerous organizations run by Cullors, including Reform LA Jails and BLM PAC. Bowers also listed his Bowers Consulting email address in BLM’s most recent charity registration submitted to New Mexico identified Bowers as the individual authorized to sign checks on behalf of the charity.
BLM board member Raymond Howard used to state on his LinkedIn account that he served as finance and operations manager of New Impact Partners, a Dayton, Ohio-based consulting firm owned by his sister. A website for New Impact Partners also named BLM as one of its clients, but the reference was removed from the site in late January after the Washington Examiner inquired BLM about its relationship with the firm.
Howard also deleted the reference to New Impact Partners from his LinkedIn account in late January after being contacted by the Washington Examiner in late January.
As of Tuesday afternoon, BLM is out of compliance in California, Washington, New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland, Maine, and Virginia due to its failure to report its 2020 finances. Scott Walter, the president of the conservative think tank Capital Research Center, said BLM’s move to change its fiscal year change won’t likely be well received by those states.
“This latest discovery about BLMGNF is eyebrow-raising for a group already in apparent disarray,” Walter told the Washington Examiner. “The fiscal year change will likely heighten the concerns of state attorneys general who monitor charities and won’t want to wait till May 2022 (the latest possible filing date under the new fiscal year) to discover what happened to $60-plus million.”
BLM was also out of compliance with New Mexico, but the state reinstated the charity on Friday and provided it an extension until June 30 to report its finances after the BLM submitted its short-year Form 990 to the state.
“Our office is closely monitoring until they are in full compliance,” said Jerri Mares, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General.
It remains unclear who was left in charge of BLM’s finances after co-founder Cullors resigned as the group’s executive director in May 2021, amid scrutiny of her personal real estate purchases.
The two co-directors Cullors appointed to serve in her stead following her resignation quietly announced in September that they didn’t take the job because of disagreements with BLM.
BLM revealed in its short-year 2020 Form 990 that its books were now in the care of Elias Law Group, the law firm run by Democratic mega-lawyer Marc Elias.
BLM also disclosed in a filing submitted Friday to the California attorney general’s office that Minyon Moore, a longtime ally of Hillary and Bill Clinton, had taken up a position on BLM’s board of directors.
It’s not clear when BLM’s partnerships with Elias Law Group and Moore began.
Authored by Andrew Kerr via Washington Examiner
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