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Tipsheet

'Ghost Ship Full of Treasure': The Financial Records for Black Lives Matter Are a Total Shipwreck

AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Who’s minding the store? Black Lives Matter burst onto the national scene a few years ago following the officer-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore. In general, no doubt there is a debate about the use of force among police officers in some instances. No doubt bad cops should be held accountable. No doubt, not all police shootings are ‘good’ shoots. Laquan McDonald’s death at the hands of the Chicago Police Department is a prime example, where then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office appears to have pushed for the suppression of the footage in order to win an election. There are still lingering questions about Freddie Gray’s death, but what do we get from BLM? Oh, only chants like “pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon.”

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Now, cops are being shot all over the country. BLM obviously has been quiet, but there’s another more pressing reason: it has no leadership. One of its top people resigned after it was discovered she bought a bunch of real estate for millions of dollars. Two others supposedly took her place but didn’t take their leadership roles due to disagreements with the rest of the governing council. No one is steering the ship. No one. And the financial records are something of a train wreck as well. Millions of dollars are unaccounted for with this group. There are many words that come to mind here: incompetence, corruption, recklessness, deception, and grift. Take your pick, but I think the latter is the winner—and one you’ve probably thought of years ago especially after the real estate purchases (via Washington Examiner):

BLM's shocking lack of transparency surrounding its finances and operations raises major legal and ethical red flags, multiple charity experts told the Washington Examiner.

"Like a giant ghost ship full of treasure drifting in the night with no captain, no discernible crew, and no clear direction," CharityWatch Executive Director Laurie Styron said of BLM.

[…]

BLM previously came under fire from local black activists after the New York Post reported in April that Cullors, then its executive director, had spent $3.2 million on real estate across the United States. The reports followed BLM's disclosure in February 2021 that it closed out 2020 with $60 million in its bank accounts.

BLM denied allegations that [Patrisse] Cullors spent BLM funds on her personal properties. However, BLM and other activist organizations under Cullors's control offered contracts to an art company led by the father of her only child, the Daily Caller reported.

Cullors announced in May she was stepping down and that activists Makani Themba and Monifa Bandele would lead the organization as senior executives. But Themba and Bandele revealed in September that they never actually took the job because of disagreements with BLM's "acting Leadership Council."

[…]

…the IRS granted BLM tax-exempt status in December 2020, enabling the group to operate as a charity independent of its former fiscal sponsors. And Thousand Currents reported in its most recent audited financial statements that it transferred $66.5 million directly into BLM's coffers in October 2020.

Cullors signed the asset transfer on behalf of BLM on Sept. 16, 2020, according to a copy of the agreement provided to the Washington Examiner by the California Office of the Attorney General.

BLM published a report last February saying it incurred $8.4 million in operating expenses in 2020 and that it closed out the year with $60 million under its control.

But BLM reported to the IRS in August 2020 that it expected to incur precisely $12,706,366 in "Professional Fees" expenditures during the same calendar year, a figure $4.3 million higher than the top-line annual spending figure it later reported to the public in February.

Kamenar said his watchdog group believes there should be a "full audit" of BLM to clear up the spending discrepancy.

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That’s a lot of cash in the coffers, and no one can say who controls the books. That seems like a big problem. 

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