A recap. The Human Rights Campaign and Arcus Foundation have raised and allocated at least $100,000 to the Russian Freedom Fund, which is passing the money along to Russian groups. I've asked how these entities do all that and either comply with or challenge Putin's laws. Anastasia Smirnova, pictured on the right, was asked to address my concerns since she was quoted in HRC materials. She writes:
It seems from your text that you understand this law as making foreign donations to Russia-based non-profits illegal. However, the law does not ban such donations – it aims at labeling certain groups in a discrediting way as ‘foreign agents’. The labeling can occur under two conditions: NGOs receive foreign finding and engage in ‘political activity’ (which is defined in an extremely open way in the law). [...]
In short, foreign donations per se are not illegal. Failure to register as a ‘foreign agent’ is if the above two conditions are in place. [...]
Registered organizations are of course abiding by Russian law and providing all documentation and reporting that is required from non-profits to the Ministry of Justice and other relevant government agencies. How exactly it is possible to mitigate risks while being transparent is not a subject of an open discussion – as no one here would like to make life difficult for any Russian organization. [...]
Also weighing in is Polina Andrianova:
However, the prosecutors are not of the same opinion. When we are charged, we defend our rights to freedom of association in courts, and this also becomes part of our human rights work.
Secondly, there are ways for the Russian NGOs to mitigate risks. To discuss them publicly is to increase risks for us, for other Russian NGOs, and for the human rights activists working for these organizations. At this point in time, we are not willing to do that.
My response to Polina asked for additional communication to create additional steps for transparency and expect the conversation with her, Anastasia and other interested parties will continue after the Sochi Olympics are over.
Finally, I asked leaders of the NYC-based AllOut nonprofit what are the costs to create the gear they're hawking from American Apparel with proceeds designated for unnamed Russian group, if the manufacturer is opening the books, and if so, where online is that info? Regarding any proceeds, how will they make that info transparent along with the agreements they have with American Apparel? Wesley Adams replied:
As with Anastasia and Polina, followup questions were sent to Wesley, especially about getting this info and more transparency details posted to the AllOut and American Apparel sites and I hope he will soon enough address my concerns. Russian gay transparency is only beginning and must expand in the coming months.