Who IS in charge of BLM's $60million bankroll? Black Lives Matter will not confirm who controls its significant funds after founder stepped down and the two activists she appointed to take her place rejected roles
Charity auditors have expressed alarm at the management of Black Lives Matter's $60 million in donations, after it emerged that people announced as leading the organization never took up the role, and no one seemed able to say who was handling the finances.
The most recent tax filing for the charity, from 2019, gives an address in Los Angeles that does not exist, and the two remaining BLM directors identified by The Washington Examiner were not able to assist - with one even scrubbing BLM associations from his social media after he was contacted by the paper.
They are yet to file a 2020 return, a Form 990, as required - which could see BLM fined by the IRS.
Laurie Styron, executive director of CharityWatch, said the findings were deeply troubling, and said they should have filed their 2020 form by now.
'Like a giant ghost ship full of treasure drifting in the night with no captain, no discernible crew, and no clear direction,' she said.
Paul Kamenar, counsel for conservative watchdog group the National Legal and Policy Center, told the paper a full audit was needed, describing the situation as 'grossly irregular'.
The problem began in earnest in May 2021, when BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors stepped down as director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, the national body representing all the individual local chapters.
Patrisse Cullors (pictured) co-founded BLM in July 2013 with Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza. She left the group in May 2021
Cullors, Garza and Tometi (left to right) co-founded the group, but Garza and Tometi left, leaving Cullors in charge as executive director
Black Lives Matter has grown into a global organization. Protesters are seen in Leeds, England, on June 21, 2020
BLM protesters are pictured in Columbus, Ohio, in April 2021
Cullors co-founded BLM in July 2013, after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Alicia Garza, an Oakland activist, posted what she called a love letter to black people on Facebook, writing, 'Our lives matter.'
Cullors, a friend of Garza, replied with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
New York activist Opal Tometi then used the words while building a digital network of community organizers and antiracism activists.
Garza and Tometi are no longer affiliated with the network, and Cullors was its figurehead and leader throughout the George Floyd protests - which saw huge donations flood in.
The organization's finances had been managed by a group called Thousand Currents, which says it has a 'mission of supporting grassroots movements pushing for a more just and equitable world.'
In the summer of 2020, leaders sought nonprofit status with the IRS, which was granted in December 2020 - allowing the organization to receive tax-deductible donations directly.
Cullors is seen in 2015 speaking at Harvard Law School
BLM protesters are seen in August 2020 in Portland, Oregon
The designation requires the foundation to file public 990 forms, revealing details of its organizational structure, employee compensation, programming and expenses.
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In September 2020, Cullors signed documents with Thousand Currents transferring $66.5 million into BLM's accounts.
In February 2021, Black Lives Matter confirmed it took in $90 million throughout 2020, distributed to their partner organizations, and had $60 million remaining in its accounts.
In its report, a snapshot of which was shared with AP, the BLM foundation said individual donations via its main fundraising platform averaged at $30.76 each.
More than 10 percent of the donations were recurring.
The report does not state who gave the money in 2020, and leaders declined to name prominent donors.
Expenses were approximately $8.4 million — that includes staffing, operating and administrative costs, along with activities such as civic engagement, rapid response and crisis intervention.
BLM said at the time that they were sharing the details in a bid to be more transparent - admitting that their structure and finances had previously been opaque.
But two months later, in April 2021, reports began emerging - provided by the National Legal and Policy Center - which showed Cullors had amassed a $3.2 million property empire.
Cullors bought this house in South Los Angeles - one of four she owns
The activist also bought a home in Conyers, Georgia
Cullors now owns three properties in Los Angeles - including this one in the hills above the city
Cullors owned four properties - three in the Los Angeles area and one outside of Atlanta - the researchers found.
Many within BLM turned against Cullors, questioning where she had accumulated the money. Cullors has written two books, has a deal with YouTube, and signed a production deal with Warner Bros. in 2020 to develop programming 'for children, young adults and families.'
However, amid the furor she stood down and announced that two people were taking over as executive directors - Makani Themba and Monifa Bandele.
Yet Themba and Bandele in September said that they had never taken up the roles, following disagreements with leadership.
'Although a media advisory was released indicating that we were tapped to play the role of senior co-executives at BLMGN, we were not able to come to an agreement with the acting Leadership Council about our scope of work and authority,' they said in a statement.
'As a result, we did not have the opportunity to serve in this capacity.'
Themba and Bandele said they did not know who was now running BLM, as their discussions never progressed.
Makani Themba was announced as a director of BLM in May 2021, but never agreed terms and never took the job.
Monifa Bandele was also named a BLM director, but like Themba did not take the job
BLM protesters tussle with police in Washington DC during the RNC in August 2020
Two other people remained on the board, after Cullors' departure - Shalomyah Bowers and Raymond Howard, according to undated documents obtained by The Washington Examiner.
Bowers served as the treasurer for multiple activist organizations run by Cullors, The Washington Examiner reported, including BLM PAC and a Los Angeles-based jail reform group that paid Cullors $20,000 a month and spent nearly $26,000 on 'meetings' at a luxury Malibu beach resort in 2019.
Bowers has not commented on the current status of the $60 million in the BLM coffers.
Howard also refused to comment when asked by the paper, and has since updated his LinkedIn page to remove references to his work with 'an international social justice organization'.
Tax returns filed by BLMGN in 2019 give an address in Los Angeles that does not exist; when a reporter with The Washington Examiner went to a similar address, and same zip code, a security guard said that many people make the mistake but there was no BLM presence in the building.
An unnamed BLM spokesman told the paper by email: 'In response to your request for a copy of Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation's 2020 Form 990, we wish to inform you that at this time we do not maintain a permanent office.'
Kamenar said his watchdog group believes there should be a 'full audit' of BLM.
'Bottom line: Lot of questionable financial activity, organizational structure, location of the books, etc. that call for a full investigation,' Kamenar said.