Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brad Pitt Inspires $5K Gift to Cleve's March;
Who's the Fiscal Sponsor?

Two comments were waiting for my approval this morning, responding to an earlier post related to Cleve Jones' March on Washington. The messages were from Charles Merrill, a wealthy gay artist and tax protester and reveal potential support for the march from a truly admirable, and handsome, straight doper celebrity:

Blogger Charles Merrill said...

I just donated $5000.00 to the march and happy to do it at the request of my friend Brad Pitt.

Anonymous Charles Merrill said...

Receipt for March on Washington at Equality Across America.

Hi Charles-

Thank you so much for your donation to Equality Across America! We are fiscally sponsored by White Knot for Equality, and your contribution will be handled by them in its transfer to us. On your credit card statement, this contribution will be designated as DEMOCRACYINACTION.ORG.

White Knot for Equality is a 501(c)(3) organization, and your donation is tax-deductible. This message can be used as a receipt.

Name: Charles Merrill
Amount: $5000
Date: August 17, 2009

Equality Across America

(Hey, Charles, if you feel like donating to my blog and advocacy efforts, you can contribute by clicking on the PayPal button above.)

Putting aside who persuaded Charles to contribute, I was confused by the note from Cleve's Equality Across America group acknowledging the gift, because it said the White Knot for Equality was their fiscal sponsor. This contradicts what march spokesperson Loch Powell said last week:

The National Equality March / Equality Across America is a project of The Tides Foundation.

So which tax-exempt group is the fiscal sponsor of the march? Also, march organizers claim all donations are tax deductible and that has raised the concern of Rick Rosendall of the Gay and Lesbian Activists' Alliance of Washington, DC. At the GLAA Forum blog, Rick laid out his thoughts:

When I posted an item on this, my GLAA colleague Craig Howell asked, "How can contributions for a political March be fully tax-deductible?"

The answer is that legally they can't. Education efforts can be tax-deductible, but not advocacy for legislation, which this march is all about. Advocacy groups have to deal with this issue all the time, which is why it is common to set up two groups: an IRS 501(c)(3) group for research and education, and a separate 501(c)(4) group for advocacy and lobbying. Contributions to the former are tax-deductible, while contributions to the latter are not. Here in D.C., for example, we have a Foundation for All D.C. Families and a separate Campaign for All D.C. Families. That Cleve Jones and his associates appear not to have thought of this is another indication that they leaped before looking.

Petrelis forwarded Howell's question to Loch Powell, who replied by email from Netroots Nation 2009: "He does pose a good question, however this is not a march to advocate for specific legislation. This is a march for full equality for the LGBT community. Because we are not marching for any one particular piece of legislation all of our actions are completely legitimate to 501 (c) 3 and therefore deductible to the fullest extent allowable." [...]

Whichever 501(c)(3) fiscal agent the march organizers are using, they are on thin ice. The claim that "this is not a march to advocate for specific legislation" is preposterous on its face. The march website proclaims "Our One Single Demand: Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states," and goes on to say [the march endorses repeal of DOMA, DA/DT, passage of ENDA, etc.]

To follow up on the promise from Loch Powell that the march organizers would release a fiscal report this week, I contact him about when the report might come out. He replied:

I had a call with the Exec Committee today, and they promised me that they would have it to me asap. Although it is still speculated expenses based on bids at this point. Nothing has been spent on the march, thus far. But I will work on getting that out.

Let's hope the organizers in the next couple of days provide the fiscal transparency we'd all like to see, regardless of whether money has been paid yet for expenses.


Anonymous said...

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Charles Merrill according to his website are atheists. So am I. I hope the march doesn't have clergy speaking trying to be a leader to the flock. I am thinking Rev. Irene Monroe. I saw her turn a Gill Foundation conference at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Pasadena into a southern revival tent. In a way it was funny. The gay civil rights struggle is not about religion.

Anonymous said...

Keep the pressure on them. Loch Powell is probably having a hard time making financial ends meet. He is a Hollywood talent agent, and William Morris just fired a whole shit load of agents. Powell had no A list clients.