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Three Footnotes to About 2,500 Words on Why I Still Bother (to Blog). (#2 of 2,June 29, 2019)

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Three Footnotes to About 2,500 Words on Why I Still Bother (to Blog). (#2 of 2,June 29, 2019) (short-link ends “-ad3” | just under over 2,000 words).  Two Posts published in a row only to segregate the footnotes from post In About 2,500 Words,** Why I Still Bother… (short-link ends “-ac4″/ #1 of 2) which really should be read first.  It’s more important and has more content.

These footnotes are named, not numbered; each has its own text box and background color.

Footnote:  Taxation + Tax-Exempt Sector: “Not quite the level-playing field facilitator…”

The private, tax-exempt sector can’t even be seen as a whole without significant and ongoing attempts to follow tax returns (audited financial statements, often in rare supply, are also necessary). Unfortunately (?–is it really fortune/happenstance, or coincidental?), structure and access to databases of IRS tax returns are designed, organized, and controlled by the same tax-exempt sector (increasingly, merging into each other, as “Foundation Center” recently did by acquiring “Guidestar” and now labeling it “Candid”)  Or, The Urban Institute did by re-structuring its previous data base “NCCS” (National Center for Charitable Statistics), which I just revisited after having noted a year or so back that it’d been shut down; readers were directed to just a few alternate providers).  IRS.gov holds much, but doesn’t upload several years worth of returns, and not all organizations that file or once filed are searchable on its Exempt Organization Search list.

Aaron Swartz Arrest, Trial, Awards .. from “theFamousPeople.com,” viewed June 27, 2019) Click image to enlarge.

I’ve posted on this from time to time. I read Guidestar (formerly Philanthropic Research) and Foundation Center (and The Urban Institute’s) tax returns.. I’ve talked (blogged) about on-line platforms claimed as sponsors by other nonprofits (GiveWell, JustGive, etc.) …. I’ve talked (blogged) about the problems with not just incompatible interstate but also basically unreliable databases, BOTH public and private, and the lack of even a pretense by the USDOJ in providing one (that is ONE) database for its distributed grants. ### (See right below this footnote)

Years ago, I also looked at the JSTOR (history, tax returns) organizations… remember, when, and why outstandingly talented* Aaron Swartz (MIT, invented Reddit, 1986-2013), as reported, committed suicide while facing multiple federal felony charges and prospect of 50 years in federal prison for improper downloads? (*See also family background, and private education, but even so…).

Designers (that is, developers, builders, whoever undertakes to finance the database library projects) decide what IS and what is NOT measured, data entry standards, and who gets to see what, and if so, at what cost….which reports can be run from it, etc.  Meanwhile, I’m seeing rampant (the word fits!) problems in basic data entry of names, organizations, and symptoms of very strange redirections of basic organization name searches, etc.   Read this blog long enough or far back enough; when examples show up,  I call attention to it.

Recently I’ve been noticing how and where community foundations (with significant clout and usually, assets, DAFs (Donor Advised Funds, etc.) fail to show respect by publishing their lists of grantees (if they’re filing Forms 990, that’d be, after 2008, IRS, Schedule I, grants to domestic (meaning, in the USA) organizations and governments (a) consistently and (b) in visible-to-the-naked-eye format ( c) in the IRS-requested format, which is many rows per page, not a thousand pages (electronic) of only two to three grantees per page and every 3rd or 4th row another column heading — reducing the ability to scan or browse.

Even if all involved were voluntarily showing respect, and playing “nice,” it’s still not really traceable, or I believe, being tracked or even sensed, accounting-wise.  The systems are just “there” doing their thing, year after year..  No working human being in his or her right mind could assess or monitor it sufficiently.  For those who may have a mind to,** for funders or grantees it seems “no big deal” to simply change a legal business name, or claim to have changed it (affecting what a person might use as a name search) when in fact it means “acquired a dba.”  **(I’m one, but the “in her right mind” descriptor may change if I keep it up for much longer….)   (Recent example found:  “CharityWatch.org” where “CharityWatch is a dba, the legal name of the California entity with a Chicago address is American Institute for Philanthropy, Inc.).  I tweeted about it June 25). Other phenomena (behaviors) include closing down one business entity and starting up another similarly named but not identical entity — while maintaining the website as if there was no real transition in corporate (charity) identity. Or having related organizations all using the same website, but the website doesn’t exactly reveal this — only the tax returns (including ones you wouldn’t know to look for unless you read the main charity’s tax return which mentions them — or sometimes doesn’t — on a Schedule R or otherwise.  Large grants which are alleged to have been delivered often do not show up as received on the exact grantee’s tax returns for the same time span.

The examples are endless.  I’ve read thousands of tax returns (not keeping count!) in the past decade, and with each one, typically also look through any entity’s website (usually searching for a business identity to find whether a tax return exists and who, in fact, it represents). .. The preceding paragraph is just off the top of my head.

### See Incredible how Gullible We’ve Been.  For Example: Where is ANY USDOJ Grants Awarded Database? Why won’t the USDOJ Even Divulge Actual Grant Numbers on its token LISTS (not Database) of Grantees? [Started mid-Aug. 2016<~~ Published Aug. 31, 2018!<~~]

(Day-after update) I looked for one of my posts on the USDOJ’s lack of databases, which I discovered over time looking up grants cited by domestic violence advocacy organizations.  Judging from the tags on this post (see image), that included “BWJP.” 

LGH Aug. 31, 2018 post ‘Incredible How Gullible We’ve Been..’{{Look at the tag citing the DOJ grants I was looking for back then. Imaged for 6-20-2019 post #2}}

With all the mothers and others quoting United States’ domestic violence advocacy groups which cite their sponsoring federal grants (from HHS, DOJ or anywhere else), why have not more women, in particular, or men (hey, fathers’ rights groups — this was an easy target, yet has anyone taken aim at it yet? (Of course it couldn’t be only aimed at the “OVW” part of the US DOJ and Office Justice Programs:  the description applies to the WHOLE department)… It’s just a little detail, but when there’s a main body of text (citing references) or an on-line publication (citing sponsorship), what kind of individual doesn’t check them out and learn a bit more on who’s producing them?

[Justice.gov is the main website.  “Feel free.”  FYI, yes I’m aware of USASpending.gov.  Ever tried using it and producing a report in form useable enough to communicate with others?  Here’s a link from Congressman Adam Schiff (California’s 28th District).  As you can see, it’s aimed at people looking to receive federal grants — not people looking to see federal grants awarded for a better sense of the redistributions: https://schiff.house.gov/help/federal-grants

I spend a LOT of time, when reading publications on-line, whether some academic journal that’s let down its barriers for specific purposes, or someone else who published an article from such a journal on-line, or the publication of well-known nonprofits using public (or public and private) backing — even on-line media websites, well-known ones, IF I’m going to read an article published under a certain organizational name, I’m going to look for who wants that information out.  Generally speaking, we know that subscriptions alone don’t fund most media.


Footnote “The Clapham Group”

(There are some tax returns in two tables below this light-yellow background-color section.  They go with it, but  were added after the move and have no background color or special borders.  The third footnote is light-blue and easy to distinguish.  The tax returns simply look up organizations named in the biographical summary of The Clapham Group Principal.).

From “The Clapham Group” “About” “Team” [scroll down for] “Mark Rodgers” description which didn’t display well (interfering pop-ups).  I just wanted to know who it was, so copied & pasted the text in order to read it. Notice prominent Christian, “faith-based” references.  Interesting.

Mark Rodgers

Mark Rodgers, Principal (The Clapham Group) (context: he’s listed on Buffett-founded (Early Childhood Fund) ‘Alliance for Early Success’ in Nebraska). Board members there not paid except Exec. Director (Lisa Klein) as I recall.. 

Mark Rodgers is the Principal of The Clapham Group a company that seeks to influence culture upstream of the political arena.  Mark served as the third-ranking Republican leadership staffer in the U.S. Senate for six years overseeing strategic planning and strategic communications.  He also served as a high profile chief of staff to Senator Rick Santorum, working on Capitol Hill for a total of 16 years.  He was known on the Hill for his work on such issues as poverty alleviation and global AIDS, as well as protecting life at its most vulnerable stages.

Mark is a published writer and a speaker at large and small gatherings on the topics of faith and public life, culture and caring for the least of these.  His work over the years included an outreach to “culture creators,” and he has worked closely with artists such as Bono, Patty Heaton and The Fray.  He still collects pop culture artifacts, as the walls of his office attest.

Mark is a social entrepreneur, and enjoys finding ways to help people “do good while doing well.” In the 1980s, Mark worked at the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, a faith-based organization committed to addressing the social needs of Pittsburgh from a Christian perspective.  He also founded the National Institute of Lay Education (NILE), which developed adult education curriculum to encourage reflecting Christian involvement in public life.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from Penn State, and attended Trinity Episcopal School for ministry. He is currently a Policy Fellow with the American Conservative Union Foundation. Mark is married to Leanne, and the proud father of four children.

I just “had to” look it up and was awestruck at how (messed up) entities labeled “American Conservative” (four showed up in a basic search at the “FoundationCenter.org” website) can be.

These two, probably less than the other two (one cannot decide what legal domicile it is — and what’s more neither can the State of California.. Another existed just one year (Initial Return 2007, terminated 2008 because it wasn’t accepted by the IRS as tax-exempt anyhow, and what looks like (unless this was intentional) a fruitcake (or possibly fabricated identity? I dnk which) President…. Whose undergraduate listed includes ‘Transpersonal Psychology’ and more degrees at California Institute of Integral Studies… (unrelated, but here’s an image (or two) from that LinkedIn). There are about 10 different Ostrolenk LinkedIns — several in the UK, one (looks older) is a lawyer.  This one, however, mentions the odd-filing “American Conservative Defense Alliance” shown above:

Michael Ostrolenk3d (LinkedIn 324665 images); he formed American Conservative Defense Alliance (2007-2008, IRS tax-exempt status DENIED) still referenced ~ Screen Shot 2019-06-29

Michael Ostrolenk3d (LinkedIn 324665 images); he formed American Conservative Defense Alliance (2007-2008, IRS tax-exempt status DENIED) still referenced ~ Screen Shot 2019-06-29

Conservative.org appears to be Mr. Rodgers’ group although I didn’t see his name offhand there (or on any tax return, but as a fellow, it might not show up:  Fellows aren’t “employees” and only key or highest paid employees show up on a tax return) ; its website is also a real mess (not showing here, doesn’t even have a contact address (but BI I I I G photos and a lot of unused white space, it does), and enough VERRRRY fine print sprinkled around to communicate that it is actually a 501©4 (not tax deductible) but there exists a 501©3 too (link to it shows “error” — next to a huge photo of our current President). See next 3-image gallery and pdf (printout) of the Board of Directors page, mostly to show format.  Note: there are some “read-more” links under the each person’s biography.  They may still be active in a pdf.  Pdf first: ACU | ‘Conservative’org’ Board of Directors (Warning| little text lots of white space | needlessly! (Read-more links may still work) printed 2019June29(<~~click first on the link, then on blank page icon to display.  The blank page icon will have blog and post title above it in large print). Now the three-image gallery.  First image (notice the url (web address window) sub-domain in gray window-frame at the top) is what click on the link to “501©3 Foundation” displayed.  There’s no other obvious link or reference to the foundation.

Based on common sense and a Form 990 tax return which claims the same website, “conservative.org”, these are its last three tax returns.

Total results: 3Search Again. (EIN#521294680, Founded 1970s, the 501©3)

American Conservative Union Foundation VA 2017 990 35 $1,296,921.00 52-1294680
American Conservative Union Foundation VA 2016 990 34 $995,110.00 52-1294680
American Conservative Union Foundation DC 2015 990 26 $1,590,940.00 52-1294680

And for the sake of consistency and comparison, here are for the 501©4. I could further detail this, but am already irritated at having to work so hard for basic information, and already know this is a common trait of some organizations:

Total results: 3Search Again.  EIN# 520810813 (founded 1960s, the 501©4)

AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION INC VA 2017 990O 32 $616,899.00 52-0810813
American Conservative Union VA 2016 990O 32 $1,291,202.00 52-0810813
American Conservative Union DC 2015 990O 31 $2,424,576.00 52-0810813

Notice the pattern of declining assets?  Look at Part VIIB on the latest tax returns (spending $3.2M on “communications” + 50% of its total functional expenses in category “Other” (Part IX Line 11g, explained in print too messy to bother reading today, Schedule O) may have something to do with it.  Whatever they’re spending the money on, judging by the condition of the website, it ain’t the website!  Conferences, seemingly.

I did find the $3.2M contractor (Mohler Consulting, LLC, David T. Mohler, established 2005) registered as a business in Maryland.  Another subcontractor ($183,000) “Design Foundary” even accounting for the misspelling of “Foundry”, I did not.  I then looked at the street address and found a “Perfect Settings.com” Looking for this registered as a Maryland Business, however, no deal (with or without the space in the name).  It showed a “trademark” so I looked for it (USPTO.GOV) briefly as a trademark (with and without the settings).  No deal.  I then googled “Design Foundry” spelled right, found “foundrycrew.org” which calls itself “Design Foundry” and is in Hyattville, MD (but not the same address).  As I said, however, it wasn’t found registered as a business, perhaps it’s a dba.  And any company can move within just a year and a half; perhaps they did, but the address doesn’t match.

There are MANY things I could say on looking at the latest tax returns (of both, above), but won’t here, particularly as I don’t know who’s listening or with whom it’d really register. Most of the comments would make sense only to people who are habitually looking at tax returns, enough to have some points of comparison and recognize professional versus unprofessional (a) presentation (b) filling out of the form (i.e., following IRS basic instructions) and (c ) taken both together, what’s likely happening with the organizations. MAYBe in another time and context.

On this database, both tax returns were photocopied (messy) and shrunk, leaving wide margins on both sides, making a bit hard to read without the “zoom” function, or if simply printed to hard copy.  Why would anyone SHRINK an 8X11 document to print it to 8X11 format for scanning or whatever other purpose?

FOOTNOTE “Clarification” When I say “backed by a person,” referring to someone with a human face likely to be profiled on Forbes Magazine or the news, I also include and refer to the usual delivery method: that person’s excess corporate wealth or some of it is, of course funneled into tax-exempt foundations (whether filing 990PFs as private foundation or 990s as public charity | see IRS.gov for official definitions) or several of them formed over time).  The tax-exempt foundations are typically run, controlled or funded by the person or their heirs and then circulate their grants, programmings, and shared investment platforms among others who agree with them.  The more foundations and better paid their officers (not all directors take pay — but they can cite the foundations in their biographies) or investment managers (!), the greater the powerhouse.  Add to this, pulling and blending in public revenues (also ongoing) from government entities, there is a “food chain” of tax-exempt entities feeding BOTH each others, certain individuals which run them, and/or the businesses (consultancies, management, etc.) which contract with them.

All of which brings up my question, is it possible to even live, work or function safely, NOT tax-exempt (which most of the population in any developed country such as the USA is) without seeking to dominate the global or national landscape, anywhere BUT as a microbe somewhere on that food chain, and hierarchy …

How is it possible to refuse to be treated collectively, like half-grown children, by the public/private visionary collaborative planners and leaders, without joining them and treating others similarly? I’m in the US, and the concept of crawling up to either agencies or nonprofits after what I already went through as a (battered) wife and mother, makes my skin crawl, still.  Crawling and asking for justice, food, or even safety so as to be able to safely work for  wages for food (and housing) is not, and should not be, the natural state of humanity.  

And I am going to have to do it again, this week to ASK for help from people entrusted with helping me, knowing the alternative is to fight the same (and others aligned) to wrest control of it back — in a corrupt system and without the financial resources for any fight.  I just used resources last year for FLIGHT to a less expensive space and safe place.  I should be, at this moment FIGHTING (legally) not WRITING (in public interest) — or, in so many words, begging for enough for the very short-term, basic needs.  They are two entirely different modes and mindsets.  

If you don’t do the drill-downs and don’t translate the PR into economic (operating entities) terms, which can seem like a foreign language — although it certainly isn’t to those involved running such networks,   rough experiences in life or no rough experiences, without doing this, you have no concept of the scope and the depth  of spin in each succeeding round of program promotion… or the level of betrayal of public trust and public interest … now routine practice in public institutions collaborating and consolidating operations with each other and private funders, more and more each year.  As I have been saying for several years now.

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