Commentary by Peter Flaherty originally published at RealClearPolitics.com
After leaving his victims with shattered dreams and millions in collective financial losses, the legendary con artist Charles Ponzi observed with casual cruelty, “Even if they never got anything for it, it was cheap at that price.”
There is something of that same unrepentant sentiment in the selective silence of previously voluble woke corporate boards and national media pundits. Their unwillingness to demand accountability and transparency of Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, a $90 million organization that publicly promised social justice to its millions of small donors and corporate benefactors – including Facebook, Google and Twitter – after George Floyd’s death, makes them aiders and abettors to BLMGNF’s questionable leadership and violations of law.
On January 5, Washington State Attorney General Robert Ferguson issued a “Closure Notice” demanding that BLM “immediately cease” all fundraising activities, because it had failed to file its annual financial disclosure report for tax year 2020, due last November. California Attorney General Rob Bonta followed suit a few weeks later and threatened to hold individual leaders personally liable for late fees. Despite these clear directives, BLMGNF continued fundraising until reports last week exposed their flagrant violations.
According to those reports, the group’s charity registration is also out of compliance in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita says BLM’s refusal to answer basic questions about its finances and operations raises serious, even fundamental, questions about its mission, purpose and ultimate legitimacy
“It appears that the house of cards may be falling, and this happens eventually with nearly every scam, scheme, or illegal enterprise,” the Republican attorney general told reporters. “I see patterns that scams kind of universally take: failure to provide board members, failure to provide even executive directors, failure to make your filings available. It all leads to suspicion.”
BLMGNF founder Patrisse Cullors, a self-avowed Marxist who once called for the “end of Israel” during a 2015 Harvard panel discussion, resigned her post as executive director of the BLM money machine last May, with over $60 million in its coffers, ostensibly to focus on her second book and a television deal with Warner Bros.
But revelations about her personal finances, including the purchase of four homes totaling more than $3 million, were more likely the reasons for her sudden retreat from the spotlight. This news prompted criticism from local black activists, such as one black mother whose son was killed by Los Angeles police: “Black lives don’t matter. Your pockets matter,” she declared. “Y’all come into our lives and act like y’all got our back and y’all want to say, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ But after we bury our children, we don’t see B, L or M, but y’all out here buying properties.”
Speaking of buying properties, we do know where at least some of the $60 million went. It was transferred to BLM Canada to buy a $6 million mansion in Toronto, the former headquarters of Canada’s Communist Party. Looks like BLM is returning to its roots.
There is, however, the potential for much bigger scandal. When Cullors resigned last May, she turned over the leadership to two associates. But they later issued a statement saying they never took charge since there was no agreement reached on their duties. Such change in management requires approval by the organization’s board of directors, not a unilateral decision by a resigning executive director.
Who exactly is in charge? Who is on the board? Where are the minutes of the board meetings? Where is a certified independent audit of its finances? Sixty million dollars is a lot of money, and nobody can say what’s happened to it. There is more transparency and accountability in the operation of a local chapter of the Girl Scouts.
That is why the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog group, has filed formal complaints with the attorneys general of California and Washington to do a full investigation of BLMGNF’s finances and impose criminal sanctions if warranted.
Long ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson wisely counseled about those who wear their virtue on their sleeve. “The louder he talked of his honor,” Emerson observed of a certain questionable guest to his home, “the faster we counted our spoons.” The recent revelations of the lack of accountability regarding the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation are timely reminders that a little more “spoon counting” by corporate sponsors and elite media is overdue.
Peter Flaherty is the President of the National Legal & Policy Center.