BLM Activist's Income More Than Tripled as His Nonprofit’s Revenue Plummeted

Shaun King has been accused of financial mismanagement and fraud

Shaun King / Getty Images
June 14, 2023

Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King saw income from his social justice nonprofit more than triple in 2021 even as revenues fell 60 percent, according to tax filings.

King, a former surrogate for Bernie Sanders, received $268,600 in salary from the Grassroots Law Project in 2021, up from $104,167 the year before. Grassroots Law also paid King’s media company, The North Star, $60,000 to rent its email list, according to tax filings. The boost to King’s compensation came as Grassroots Law’s revenues fell from $6.6 million to $2.6 million.

It’s the latest example of King cashing in at one of his social justice nonprofit groups. King formed Grassroots Law Project at the height of the anti-police movement in 2020 with the claim that "white supremacy, bigotry, greed, and corruption are at the center of police violence and mass incarceration." The group has called for prosecutions of police, and claims it helped "ensure" the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis officer who killed George Floyd.

Grassroots Law operates a political action committee of the same name that King has used to cover major personal expenses. The Washington Free Beacon reported that the PAC last year paid $40,000 to a California kennel to purchase a thoroughbred show dog for King.

According to Grassroots Law’s filings, King’s salary rose at a much faster clip than others at the nonprofit. The nonprofit paid $2,140,775 in salaries, an increase of 50 percent from the year before. Grassroots' assets took a nosedive, from $4,015,736 to $1,885,445.

While King has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing, his fellow activists have long accused him of financial mismanagement or fraud at his various advocacy groups.

Samaria Rice, the mother of police shooting victim Tamir Rice, accused King in 2021 of raising money from her son’s case without her permission and claimed the activist "robbed me for the death of my son."

Activist DeRay McKesson has accused his former ally of "running a long con" through a shadowy network of activist nonprofits. Another activist who worked with King called him "a liar & a fraud."

King has denied allegations of fraud, while at times acknowledging failures in his management and leadership style. He has threatened his naysayers with legal action, though he has not followed through to date.

According to tax filings, Grassroots Law Project says its board of directors approved King’s salary and payment for his email list after conducting "comparability" studies to other nonprofits.

Grassroots Law’s dramatic revenue decline marks a trend for the racial justice industry, which has been hurt by waning interest in the movement and allegations of financial mismanagement.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s revenues declined 88 percent from 2021 to 2022, the Free Beacon reported. The founders of Black Lives Matter Global used funds from the nonprofit to line their own pockets and those of relatives and friends. The group spent roughly $15 million on real estate purchases in 2020 and 2021, including a spacious $6 million mansion that founder Patrisse Cullors used as her personal resort.

Grassroots claims it paid $525,000 to cover legal services for, and production of a documentary about Marvin Guy, a black man on death row in Texas. The tax filing says Grassroots paid another $609,306 to develop model legislation regarding criminal justice and police reform issues. Another $293,253 went to the families of victims of police violence, the tax return says.

King formed Grassroots Law Project with Lee Merrit, a Texas attorney who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general. Before founding Grassroots Law Project, King and Merrit took up the cause of a seven-year-old Houston girl who was shot and killed while riding in her mother’s car. King falsely accused a white man, Robert Cantrell, of killing the girl, who was black. Two other men, both black, were arrested and convicted in the murder.

Cantrell committed suicide months later.

Grassroots Law did not respond to a request for comment.