Bail Funds Receive Support from Pro-Sandinista Groups

Groups have a long history of supporting socialist dictators in Latin America

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August 19, 2020

Two groups that provide operational support for six bail funds in the nation's largest cities have a lengthy history of supporting socialist militants in Latin America.

The Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ) and the Movement Alliance Project (MAP) together provide administrative assistance to half a dozen bail charities operating in Arizona, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. The AfGJ has a lengthy track record of pro-Sandinista organizing in Latin America, while MAP models itself on the Mexican Zapatistas, a militant front for socialist revolutionaries.

A celebrity-led fundraising effort directed some $90 million to community bail funds in the days and weeks following the death of George Floyd. Ostensibly donated to assist protesters, at least some of that money has provided an unprecedented cash boon to bail charities operating under the auspices of extreme groups.

The AfGJ sponsors bail funds in Denver, New York City, Pittsburgh, Tucson, and Vermont. By the group's own telling, AfGJ was founded in 1979 as the "Nicaragua Network" to support the Sandinistas, a dictatorial socialist government that suppressed political dissent and cultivated close ties with the Soviet Union during their decade-long reign over the beleaguered Central American nation in the 1980s. The network organized volunteer worker brigades to visit socialist Nicaragua, and promoted the regime within the United States, with the goal of changing U.S. policy toward Latin America.

Though AfGJ has grown and taken on work in other areas since 1979, it still describes "Nicaragua solidarity" as a core project on its website. While the first Sandinista regime was defeated in a national election in 1990, Sandinista Daniel Ortega took power again in 2007, and has since "dismantled all institutional checks on presidential power," according to Human Rights Watch. Despite its alarming civil-rights record, AfGJ and its Nicaraguan groups continue to promote and defend the Ortega regime in the United States. An ebook AfGJ promoted in July accuses the Trump administration of exploiting the coronavirus to foment a coup against Ortega.

The Nicaraguan leader is not the only dictator to win the AfGJ's sympathies. The group also defends Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez. In 2014, AfGJ organized a strategy group to "coordinate US solidarity and anti-intervention activities." It also publishes a regular pro-Maduro newsletter and cosponsored a "food sovereignty delegation" to Venezuela in April, though it's not clear if the visit took place.

MAP, which sponsors a Philadelphia bail fund, takes similar cues from Latin American militants. The group favorably cites the Mexican Zapatista movement as a primary inspiration on its website. The Zapatistas are an insurgent group that waged a bloody uprising in southern Mexico in favor of land reforms and freedom for Mexican Indians.

Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, the Zapatista chief known by various aliases, has expressed solidarity with other revolutionary groups, including anti-Israel militants in the Gaza Strip. In a 2009 essay, he blamed Israel for the proliferation of Palestinian gunmen and suicide bombers.

Despite their radical dispositions, AfGJ and MAP command significant financial support from establishment philanthropic groups. The Ford Foundation has donated almost $900,000 to support MAP and its predecessor group, the Media Mobilizing Project, since 2011, according to a grants search tool on Ford's website. The MacArthur Foundation gave $770,000 to MAP in 2019.

The AfGJ also counts the Ford Foundation among its donors. In addition, financial disclosure forms show large donations from the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation and Pershing LLC, a financial clearing house owned by Bank of New York Mellon.

The AfGJ and MAP serve as "fiscal sponsors" for their client bail funds. Anna Massoglia, a researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, told the Washington Free Beacon that fiscal sponsorship refers to an arrangement in which a tax-exempt nonprofit acts as a kind of parent group for a smaller project, or sponsee. The sponsor might manage its sponsee's bookkeeping or assist with fundraising. The sponsor can also take the lead on governance—client groups are generally subject to the parent group's board, Massoglia said.

Because the sponsee is not independent of its sponsor, the community bail funds are legally considered to be part of MAP and AfGJ. The exact relationship between a sponsor and its sponsee can be opaque, however. "There’s no real standard for how fiscal sponsees show up in the disclosure files of a fiscal sponsor, which makes it difficult to track at times," Massoglia told the Free Beacon.

AfCJ coordinator Chuck Kaufman said that his group provides significant accounting support to sponsored bail funds, and assists with fundraising.

"We process their donations, make grants to them for bails that they decide to pay, and pay their other bills at their request," Kaufman told the Free Beacon. "The fiscal sponsorship contract is renewed from time to time but is essentially permanent until they or we decide to terminate the contract."

MAP did not respond to the Free Beacon's inquiries about its sponsorship of the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund.
Update 8:30 p.m.: This post was updated to include comment from AfCJ coordinator Chuck Kaufman.