Misguided By Voices

Liberal group linked to Soros won't fully disclose tax forms

April 9, 2013

A liberal nonprofit linked to an embattled North Carolina organization with deep ties into the left-wing philanthropic network is refusing to provide a copy of its tax forms as required by law.

State Voices is a nonprofit umbrella organization that supports state-based nonprofits to energize political involvement, in particular, it says, among "those who are underrepresented."

A reporter from the Washington Free Beacon requested State Voices’ most recent IRS tax form over email and in person at the group’s Washington, D.C., office on March 7 and regularly returned to the office over the past month to reiterate the request. Two reporters went on Monday morning, April 8, to request the form once more.

A State Voices official directed the two reporters on Monday to the group’s online form. However, the 990 available online lacks a Schedule B, which contains the names of donors and is typically redacted. Signatures on the portion of the form available online have also been redacted, meaning it would not qualify under the "widely available" exception to the requirement that a 990 must be presented upon request.

The official indicated she would not be of any more assistance and directed the reporters to call State Voices’ communications director.

The communications director did not return a request for comment.

IRS rules mandate that barring any "unusual circumstances" a tax-exempt organization provide its Form 990 the day of an in-person request.

State Voices was caught up in controversy last month surrounding the liberal North Carolina nonprofit BluePrint NC. BluePrint was linked to a heavily partisan strategy memo that encouraged, among other things, sending political operatives to follow Republican state politicians and document their "every move." The memo also contained polling data and messaging points tailored against the state’s Republican leadership.

The email that allegedly contained the strategy memo and other electoral information listed a State Voices official as one of the recipients. BluePrint NC’s director Sean Kosofsky denied his group sent out the strategy memo, although he did not distance himself from it.

Kosofsky also sits on State Voices’ board of directors and serves as secretary.

BluePrint and State Voices are 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations, meaning they are barred from partisan electioneering activities.

George Soros, a well-known liberal donor and founder of the liberal dark money group Democracy Alliance, is just one of several liberal financers of State Voices, records show.

According to the portions of State Voices’ 2011 tax form available online, the group brought in well over $5 million in "contributions and grants" over that year.

Data provided by the Capital Research Center indicate that the Foundation to Promote Open Society, part of the Soros-backed Open Society Foundations, gave State Voices more than $1 million in 2011.

One 2011 grant for $220,000 was given "to support the Wisconsin civic engagement project." Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker faced a recall election the next year after his opponents secured enough petition signatures to force the recall early in 2012. The same foundation gave State Voices $250,000 in 2010 for the same reason.

A representative of Open Society Foundations said there was no connection between the grant and the recall election and that "We do not have record of funding State Voices for Wisconsin specific efforts."

Overall, Soros’s foundations have pumped almost $2.3 million into State Voices since 2008.

The Gill Foundation, a pro-gay rights group founded by liberal dark money guru and Democracy Alliance member Tim Gill, also strongly supports State Voices.

The Gill Foundation gave $375,000 to State Voices in 2011. The smallest grant, $25,000, was intended as "general operating support for Ohio voice." It is unclear if this was in preparation for the 2012 election battle in Ohio. The Gill Foundation had given only $150,000 before 2011.

A Gill Foundation spokesman said the group does not comment on their grants. The Gill Foundation’s website describes States Voices as one of its "Progressive Allies."

The Gill Foundation’s senior vice president for programs, Katherine Peck, serves as the chair of State Voices’ board of directors.

State Voices’ connections to progressive groups extend into the group’s staff. The group’s executive director used to work at the Center for Progressive Leadership, while others worked for a state office of Common Cause and the Congressional Black Caucus.

A spokeswoman for George Soros’s Open Society Foundations said the groups’ support for State Voices "is to advance nonpartisan civic and community engagement of underrepresented constituencies who face historic and ongoing barriers to full participation in our democracy and equality in our society."

Targeting "underrepresented constituencies" raises red flags among some critics of liberal nonprofits like State Voices and BluePrint NC. Matthew Vadum, senior editor for Capital Research Center, called that term "code for Democratic voters."

These nonprofits "were vital in helping to get the vote out for President Obama in the last election," Vadum said.

Many of State Voices’ grants in 2011 were for either "civic and voter mobilization" or "voter outreach activities," according to its 2011 tax form.

Such groups skirt election law by focusing their efforts on nonpartisan groups, Vadum said. "They can’t overtly be pro-Democrat. Often the line is very thin."

The spokeswoman for the Open Society Foundations defended the foundations’ grants to State Voices.

"A more engaged citizenry, which includes all members of a community, advances the necessary elements in an open society including, educational equity, a fair economy, an open democracy, and racial justice," she said.

"The Open Society Foundations is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, and we do not support political candidates or parties," she said.