I will only offer observations at this point because there are so many questions to be asked that it’s premature to say exactly what happened, or in Ethics Alarms-ese, “What’s going on here?’ I stumbled across this current story by accident, while preparing a preliminary outline and seminar description for a program I’ll be doing as I have been for two decades for the annual Washington Non-Profit Legal and Tax Conference in March. What recent non-profit and charity ethics problems have arisen in the last year or so? And up popped the jaw-dropping message above.
What that statement, which was posted last September, suggested was that nobody was running the non-profit arm of Black Lives Matters, which has received about $60 milllion in contributions since the group grabbed the opportunity presented by the death of George Floyd, which still has never been shown to have anything to do with race. (Don’t get me started…) Naturally, this is a story that the mainstream media has no interest in enlightening the public on, but the conservative Washington Examiner broke the story at the end of last month, again. A brief summary from the article:
- “No one appears to have been in charge at Black Lives Matter for months. The address it lists on tax forms is wrong, and the charity’s two board members won’t say who controls its $60 million bankroll”
I don’t want to be an alarmist or anything, but these are what we call in the non-profit world, “red flags.” That $60 million, incidentally, is just what BLM had received through 2020. Nobody outside the group knows what it attracted in 2021, because this hasn’t been revealed.
- BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, you may recall, came under criticism after the New York Post reported last April that Cullors, then its executive director, had spent $3.2 million on real estate purchases in upscale neighborhoods. Ethics Alarms also covered the story.
It is also a red flag any time the head of charity who is also a selfless social activist goes on a spending spree.
- Cullors got out, as they say, “while the gettin’ was good,” in May, though there may be investigations and more on her horizon. As the head of a non-profit, she had fiduciary duties to the organization, its mission and its donors to make certain of a smooth transition of leadership. As that message above indicates, she ignored them. Maybe she didn’t know what they were. She appointed two activists to serve as the group’s senior directors following her resignation, but they announced in September that they never took the jobs due to disagreements with Black Lives Matter. They told the Washington Examiner that they don’t know who now leads what the paper called “the nation’s most influential social justice organization.” This left, and leaves, the foundation “like a giant ghost ship full of treasure drifting in the night with no captain, no discernible crew, and no clear direction,” as CharityWatch Executive Director Laurie Styron described it.
This is not, I will tell the non-profit lawyers in March, any way to run an ethical charity.
Themba and Bandele say that they do not know who took over as BLM’s top executive after their departure, and would not tell the Examiner who served on the council. The two remaining BLM board members, Shalomyah Bowers and Raymond Howard have not responded to inquiries regarding who has been in charge of BLM and its money since Cullors left the charity in May.
- The IRS granted BLM tax-exempt status in December 2020, enabling the group to operate as a charity independent of its former fiscal sponsors. BLM’s 2020 Form 990 tax return was due to the IRS in November, but hasn’t been filed. When the Examiner reporter attempted to request BLM’s 2020 Form 990 in person at the charity’s office in Los Angeles, which the group told the IRS was where its financial records are kept in previous filings, a security guard said that was never been a BLM office at the location.
At the risk of being repetitive, “Uh-oh.”
An unidentified BLM spokesperson told the Examiner that the group does not currently maintain a “permanent office.”
The other metaphorical shoes started dropping last week.
- Black Lives Matter shut down its online fundraising streams last week after California threatened to hold the charity’s leaders personally liable over its lack of financial transparency. Another deadline is approaching for filling that 990, and the BLM board members—if there are any board members—face personal liability.
My guess is that the leaders of BLM thought they were above reproach because, for the most part, they have been for years. Unfortunately for them, non-profits in the United States have to follow strict rules and protocols for reporting all monies going in and out.
They should also be made aware that accusations of racism mean nothing when you’re being audited.
You can detect the fear of treating BLM like any other non-profit that beahved like this in the comments of charity expert Doug White, quoted by the Examiner. He feels compelled to say, “What BLM does is of tremendous social importance” to immunize himself from the racism accusations. Promoting anti-police hate, anti-white racism and lies about police shootings is of tremendous social importance, Doug? I did not know that…
Now my guess is that BLM has run though all of Eric Hoffer’s stages of cause corruption in record time. The common condensed version of his famous observation is “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” I think that’s giving BLM too much credit, as it began as a racket, but never mind. I’ll wait for the results of the audit.
Things do not, however, look good.
I think I’ll print out this post and stick it on the huge BLACK LIVES MATTER display that has been out in front of a neighbor’s house for almost two years. After all, she has a right to know what she’s promoting.