As Civil War Consumes Black Lives Matter, $8.7 Million Goes Missing

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May 29, 2024

The left-wing dark money giant Tides Foundation raised more than $33 million on behalf of the national Black Lives Matter group during the George Floyd riots in 2020. Now, Black Lives Matter is suing Tides over its refusal to hand the funds back. There’s just one problem—nearly $9 million of those funds have seemingly disappeared.

From 2020 through 2022, Tides transferred $8.7 million from the fund to Black Lives Matter Grassroots, an offshoot of the national Black Lives Matter group led by Melina Abdullah, a longtime activist and professor. But Black Lives Matter Grassroots reported to the IRS that it never received that money, and no one involved in the transactions will say what became of the funds. These discrepancies have left charity watchdogs mystified, while legal experts say they could lead to massive fines and penalties.

This story is based on interviews with Black Lives Matter activists and internal documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Together, they expose how the movement’s mismanagement of its 2020 windfall was aided and abetted by a left-wing dark money machine, and went far beyond the purchase of swanky mansions and massive distributions to associates of its co-founder, Patrisse Cullors.

As the remnants of Black Lives Matter’s windfall rapidly diminish, two factions have emerged seeking to establish control over the movement’s remaining finances. On one side of the power struggle is Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, the charity commonly referred to as the national Black Lives Matter group, which was responsible for purchasing a $6 million Los Angeles mansion in 2020 and granting $8 million to purchase a Canadian mansion in 2021. The Global Network Foundation received the bulk of the Black Lives Matter windfall in 2020—nearly $80 million. By June 2023, that endowment had been reduced to $29 million, according to tax documents released last week.

At the other end of the conflict is Black Lives Matter Grassroots, an offshoot of the Global Network Foundation that tried and failed to sue its progenitor for $10 million and allegedly abused its own charitable resources to finance overseas vacations for Abdullah, its director. Black Lives Matter Grassroots' finances are a complete mystery. There is no indication the charity has filed a public financial disclosure with the IRS, though it was due to file one by November 2023 at the latest.

In the middle of the struggle is the Tides Foundation, the left-wing dark money giant that raised more than $33 million on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, and now refuses to give what remains to either group.

The Global Network Foundation sued Tides in May over its refusal to relinquish the funds, arguing they were raised on its behalf. But behind the scenes, from 2020 through 2022, Abdullah led a committee of seven Black Lives Matter activists that convinced Tides to divert $8.7 million from the fund to Black Lives Matter Grassroots.

Whatever became of those millions is unclear. On paper, they seemingly disappeared.

Through 2022, Black Lives Matter Grassroots was a fiscally sponsored project of One Love Global, a Michigan-based charity led by activist Angela Waters Austin. It was a cozy arrangement for Austin, who simultaneously served alongside Abdullah on the committee that convinced Tides to transfer millions to her charity.

The Free Beacon obtained internal Tides emails showing its grants to One Love Global were for the benefit of Black Lives Matter Grassroots, specifically for the support of local Black Lives Matter chapters across the country. The grants to One Love Global are reflected in Tides Foundation’s public Form 990 tax returns—$1.4 million in 2020, $100,000 in 2021, and $7.2 million in 2022.

But Austin and One Love Global reported radically different financial pictures to the IRS those years. From 2020 through 2022, One Love Global said it received contributions from all sources of just $2.2 million. And One Love Global reportedly granted $0 to local Black Lives Matter chapters those years, according to its IRS disclosures.

Put simply: The millions of dollars that Tides Foundation sent to One Love Global to help Black Lives Matter Grassroots support local chapters fell into an accounting black hole. One Love Global told the IRS it never received the Tides money. Local Black Lives Matter chapters were iced out. And $8.7 million in charitable funds vanished on paper.

Charity watchdogs and tax attorneys were mystified at the discrepancies.

Former IRS tax law specialist Patrick Sternal said if One Love Global failed to report millions of dollars received from the Tides Foundation, "it could result in penalty taxes on the underreporting, and potentially, depending on where the funds went, it might raise issues of whether the organization engaged in private benefit or inurement transactions."

CharityWatch CEO Laurie Styron offered a blunt assessment.

"This doesn't make any sense," Styron told the Free Beacon after examining One Love Global’s tax returns. "At best, it has extremely sloppy reporting. This is not good. It calls into question the reliability of the financial reporting."

Curiously, One Love Global also reported it had "deferred revenues" ranging from $1.9 million in 2020 to $5.6 million in 2022. It’s unclear if those figures represent the Tides contributions. But even if they did, it’s still millions of dollars less than what Tides said it gave to One Love Global. Regardless, Styron said it’s inappropriate for a charity to report such grants as "deferred revenue."

Nonprofit tax attorney Jessica Brouckaert Bartlett added: "It is highly unusual for a tax-exempt organization to report deferred revenue on its 990, and even more rare to do it year after year. This typically only happens when the organization receives a conditional grant, which is also uncommon."

One Love Global did not return requests for comment.

There is no public indication that One Love Global ever fiscally sponsored Black Lives Matter Grassroots. Several Black Lives Matter sources said the secrecy of the arrangement was intentional.

A Black Lives Matter source told the Free Beacon that Abdullah, the leader of Black Lives Matter Grassroots, kept the fiscal sponsorship arrangement "intentionally private" because she didn’t want the public to know how her group was spending its money.

"I remember specifically [Abdullah] made mention that she didn’t want to incorporate Black Lives Matter Grassroots because she didn’t want folks to know how the money was moving," a second Black Lives Matter source confirmed to the Free Beacon.

Tides remains committed to the secrecy of the arrangement. Tides spokeswoman Liah Caravalho refused to publicly confirm that its grants to One Love Global were to support Black Lives Matter Grassroots, a fact established in internal Tides emails.

"We recommend you contact BLM Grassroots to disclose information about their fiscal sponsorship history," Caravalho told the Free Beacon. "We have no further comment."

Caravalho did not respond to follow up questions asking if Tides was at all concerned that the $8.7 million it gave to One Love Global is now unaccounted for.

Black Lives Matter sources said Abdullah shielded Black Lives Matter Grassroots' finances from the public at the same time the Global Network Foundation was facing intense public scrutiny over its own finances. The Global Network Foundation secretly purchased a $6 million mansion in Los Angeles in 2020, which Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors later used to film a video of herself and Abdullah drinking wine and reflecting on the George Floyd riots.

In that video, which was filmed in June 2021, Abdullah railed against disgruntled activists and the press for demanding transparency of Black Lives Matter’s finances.

"Who the fuck are you? You ain’t done shit," Abdullah said while sipping on white wine and snacking on strawberries. "And you ain’t doing no fucking work. You do no work. You’re on Twitter. You have no following. And you’re trying to gain a following by talking shit."

Around the time that video was filmed, Abdullah allegedly dipped into Black Lives Matter Grassroots' accounts to fund a personal vacation to Jamaica.

"Some members of the Grassroots team secretly took a book-writing retreat trip to Jamaica without notifying the entirety of the team, or without approving a budgetary expenditure," former Black Lives Matter Grassroots co-director Sandra Hudson wrote in a January 2022 memo to Tides. Hudson’s leadership position with the group was terminated just weeks after she sent the memo, the activist said in a sworn declaration as part of Black Lives Matter Grassroots' failed lawsuit against the Global Network Foundation.

Abdullah described her Jamaica trip as a "vacation" during a private conversation with another Black Lives Matter activist in 2021.

"She mentioned that she had just come back from Jamaica for vacation and she went with some people with Grassroots," that Black Lives Matter activist told the Free Beacon. "She said Grassroots was writing a book or something. But she also mentioned to me that it was important that I not say anything to anyone because it was really just a vacation."

As of the publication of this article, neither Black Lives Matter Grassroots nor Abdullah have published a book.

Black Lives Matter Grassroots broke away from One Love Global and became a standalone charity in May 2022. Its first course of action was to file a frivolous lawsuit against the Global Network Foundation for $10 million in August 2022. A California judge threw out the lawsuit and ordered Black Lives Matter Grassroots repay the Global Network Foundation’s legal fees of over $700,000.

The IRS allows charities to raise tax-free money, but in return they must disclose their finances to the public. The IRS authorized Black Lives Matter Grassroots to operate as a charity over two years ago, but its finances remain shrouded in secrecy.

Several legal experts confirmed that Black Lives Matter Grassroots should have filed a Form 990 tax return for its 2022 fiscal year by November at the latest. That deadline passed over six months ago, but the group’s tax disclosures are nowhere to be found. Nor is the group registered with any state-level charitable solicitation regulators.

Paul Kamenar, an attorney with the National Legal and Policy Center watchdog group, said Black Lives Matter Grassroots could face IRS fines of up to $60,000 if it doesn’t file its disclosure with the IRS.

A spokesperson for Black Lives Matter Grassroots told the Free Beacon the organization has filed its tax returns "on time" and "will continue to prioritize regulatory compliance."

But Black Lives Matter Grassroots did not return several written requests for copies of its Form 990 tax returns, a document charities are required to provide to the public upon request.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been down this road before. The Washington Examiner reported in January 2022 that the Global Network Foundation was months late filing its own Form 990 tax returns and was not registered with state-level charity regulators. Those stories led authorities in California, Washington, and Indiana to send legal threats to the Global Network Foundation, and the group was forced to temporarily shut off its online fundraising streams as it resolved its compliance issues.

The Global Network Foundation has since remained in compliance, filing its public tax returns on time and remaining in good standing with state-level regulators. The same can’t be said for Black Lives Matter Grassroots.