June 29, 2022
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According to a deep dive by the Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger, the “dark money” machine that is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars to promote Donald Trump recently changed ownership hands and questions are being raised about where all the money is going and who controls it.

As the report notes, Trump’s ouster from the White House in 2020 set in motion a collection of allies creating PAC’s aimed at promoting him as he ostensibly plans to make another presidential run in 2024, and that the non-profit formerly known as America First Policies underwent an ownership change that further has obscured how the money is being used.

Pointing out that the changes “cast another layer of opacity over millions of dollars in already obscured donations the group made to controversial far-right causes in 2020,” the report quotes University of Notre Dame non-profit law expert Lloyd Mayer calling the changes “troubling.”

“Whatever your views of so-called ‘dark money’ may be, these groups are further obscuring money flows,” he explained.

Mayer went on to explain that the selling of a non-profit is quite unusual, telling the Beast, “Nonprofits generally do not have owners as a matter of state law, so I am not sure what they mean by ‘sold.’ Nonprofits can sell their assets, including their name, as long as they do so for fair market value,” before adding, “the nonprofit itself would have received the proceeds.”

According to Sollenberger, “The sale also shows that the byzantine pro-Trump dark money machine is reconfiguring itself ahead of the 2022 midterms, as well as Trump’s possible candidacy in 2024,” before continuing, “All the confusion has one immediate upshot: It makes it even more difficult to understand who exactly is responsible for millions of dollars in shady grants that [Trump affiliated group] America First Policies doled out last year.”

“Those grants appeared in the tax report covering America First Policies’ activity last year, which was filed by America First Works and first obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. Some of the listed recipients have been tied to voter-suppression activity, and one of them is a hotbed for bigoted anti-LGTBQ rhetoric,” the report continues. “But paper trails vanish almost immediately, with some entities appearing to have evaded scrutiny after failing to file tax reports for several years—a pattern which raised concerns among experts in nonprofit law.”

After noting several other off-shoots that have also undergone multiple name changes — and in many cases have not made IRS filings — Sollenberger wrote, “Of course, the Trump money machine has never been easy to follow. But the connections appear even blurrier now that Trump is out of office. And thanks to IRS filing deadlines, voters may not know what these groups are currently up to until next November, after the midterms.”

Non-profit expert Mayer added, “Timing matters. The longer it takes for the information to come out, the less it’s on the public’s mind. And by delaying flings and obscuring who these groups are, that information only gets older and colder and staler. Even if it all comes out accurately and on time in 2022, it still may not make the news.”

You can read the detailed report here — subscription required.

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