Monday, December 27, 2021

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Defender of Human Rights in South Africa and Beyond, Dies at 90


December 26, 2021

Photo by Peter Williams, WCC

Leaving behind a legacy of fighting for oppressed people in South Africa and around the world, Archbishop Desmond Tutu died Sunday at age 90 in Cape Town, South Africa. The cause was reportedly cancer.

Advocates for human rights, health equity, economic justice, and nonviolence honored Tutu, who helped lead the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was formed afterwards.

The Elders, the independent groudenp of global leaders working for justice and good governance, said his "commitment to peace, love, and the fundamental equality of all human beings will endure to inspire future generations."

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

"The Elders would not be who they are today without his passion, commitment, and keen moral compass," said Mary Robinson, former Irish president and chair of The Elders. "He inspired me to be a 'prisoner of hope,' in his inimitable phrase. [Tutu] was respected around the world for his dedication to justice, equality, and freedom. Today we mourn his death but affirm our determination to keep his beliefs alive."      

Tutu served as The Elders' first chair from 2007 until 2013, after becoming internationally recognized for his work leading Black South Africans in the fight against the apartheid system, which he condemned as "evil" while urging nonviolent methods of protest.

He preached that apartheid threatened the dignity and humanity of both Black and white South Africans and called on international leaders to impose sanctions on the country's government in protest of the apartheid system, a demand which led South African officials to revoke his passport twice.

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor," Tutu famously said during the struggle against apartheid. "If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1984. After the fall of the apartheid system in 1994, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which aimed to provide a record of the violence and injustice perpetrated by the government under the system. The archbishop sought to provide "restorative justice," offering compensation to survivors and amnesty to perpetrators who cooperated with the inquiry.

Tutu was a fierce critic of economic and racial inequality that persisted in South Africa following the formal end of the apartheid system, accusing President Thabo Mbeki in 2004 of serving a small number of elites while "too many of our people live in grueling, demeaning, dehumanizing poverty."

"Can you explain how a Black person wakes up in a squalid ghetto today, almost 10 years after freedom?" Tutu said in 2003. "Then he goes to work in town, which is still largely White, in palatial homes. And at the end of the day, he goes back home to squalor?"

Beyond his home country, Tutu was an outspoken critic of militarism and imperialism in the Global North, calling for former U.S. President George W. Bush and former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to face prosecution at the International Criminal Court over their invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Tutu was also a defender of Palestinians' rights and a critic of Israel's violent policies targeting millions of people in Gaza and the West Bank, comparing their treatment to the apartheid system.

In 2014, as the Israeli Defense Forces carried out attacks that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians—the vast majority of whom were civilians—Tutu wrote an exclusive article in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, calling for a global boycott of Israel.

He called on Israelis "to actively disassociate themselves and their profession from the design and construction of infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation barrier, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land."

"Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of 'normalcy' in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice," Tutu wrote. "They are contributing to the perpetuation of a profoundly unjust status quo. Those who contribute to Israel's temporary isolation are saying that Israelis and Palestinians are equally entitled to dignity and peace."

That same year, Tutu called for a global divestment from the fossil fuel industry modeled on the international sanctions that he supported against South Africa, which helped to end apartheid.

"As we celebrate Desmond Tutu's legacy, remember his unflagging support for the people of Palestine."

"We live in a world dominated by greed," Tutu wrote in The Guardian. "We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth. It is clear [the companies] are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money."

"People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change," he added. "We can, for instance, boycott events, sports teams, and media programming sponsored by fossil-fuel energy companies... We can encourage more of our universities and municipalities and cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry."

Tutu was also recognized for his global fight for LGBTQ+ rights, his calls for an end to AIDS denialism in South Africa, and recently, his efforts to combat misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.

"Bishop Tutu meant so much to so many," said Rev. Dr. William Barber II, co-chair of the anti-poverty Poor People's Campaign in the U.S. "Thank God for his life. Let we who believe in freedom and justice be his legacy always."

This article originally appeared at Originally published on December 26th, 2021.It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Senate Slammed for Passing 'Bloated' NDAA But Delaying Build Back Better Act

"Don't tell me we can't afford to fight poverty, cancel student debt, pass paid leave, and defeat the climate crisis," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal after senators approved the $786 billion military spending bill.


December 15, 2021

As a bill authorizing $778 billion in military spending breezed through the U.S. Senate Wednesday amid darkening prospects for the Build Back Better social and climate investment package, peace and civil society groups decried what they called the misplaced priorities that place the military-industrial complex and corporate greed above dire human and planetary needs.

After passing the House of Representatives last week by a vote of 363-70—51 Democrats and 19 Republicans voted against it—88 senators voted to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, a policy measure that provides $25 billion more in Pentagon funding than requested by President Joe Biden and nearly $38 billion more than the last NDAA of former President Donald Trump's tenure.

Only 11 senators voted against the measure: New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker—who in an unusual move changed his vote from "yes" to "no"—Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

"Where is all the hand-wringing over the $778 billion military bill that we've seen over Build Back Better, which costs less than a quarter as much annually? Congress has completely abdicated their responsibility for the Pentagon budget," Lindsay Koshgarian, program director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Common Dreams. "They may as well hand over a blank check."

The bipartisan ease with which the NDAA passed stood in stark contrast with the increasingly dim prospects for the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House without a single Republican vote last month but was on the verge of collapse Wednesday as Sen. Joe Manchin (W-Va.)—who voted "yes" on the NDAA—seeks to eliminate the boosted child tax credit, a move experts say would impoverish millions of children.

"Families will stop receiving child tax credit checks next month unless Congress finally passes the Build Back Better Act, but the flow of dollars to stockholders for Pentagon contractors will go on, uninterrupted," lamented Koshgarian.

Carley Towne, national co-director of the peace group CodePink, called the NDAA "a slap in the face to working people across this country."

"Over the past few months, Congress has been gridlocked over the possibility of spending $350 billion annually on healthcare, education, and green jobs," she told Common Dreams. "All of a sudden, when it comes to money for war, Congress once again shows that they are ready and willing to prioritize war profiteers over human needs."

Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said that "as the national debate centers around how much is 'too much' to be spending on the true needs of the American people, it is unconscionable to approve three-quarters of a trillion dollars for war-making, a sum that is $25 billion more than the president even requested."

"Why is there more money for the military-industrial complex—providing no additional protection for our national security and arguably diminishing it—at the same time the U.S. is refusing to spend the $25 billion needed to make enough additional vaccines to vaccinate the world?" he asked.

Even the right-wing National Taxpayers Union called the NDAA's $778 billion topline spending figure "unsustainable."

"The Pentagon budget can't go on growing forever," Koshgarian stressed. "We need more members of Congress to step up, as some principled members have done, and say no to bigger and bigger Pentagon budgets."

"We've seen powerful progressive movements achieve a lot over the last couple of years," she added, "and we can move the needle on Pentagon spending, too."

This article originally appeared at Originally published on December 15th, 2021.It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 

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Monday, December 20, 2021

bell hooks will never leave us – she lives on through the truth of her words

Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Loyola University Maryland

I was introduced to the work of bell hooks for the first time when I was 14 years old, sitting on my Nana’s porch, complaining about the mosquitoes and the heat.

My Nana, who was probably frustrated by my endless complaints about being bored, stuck a copy of “Ain’t I A Woman” in my hand and told me just to “shut up and read.” I remember that summer because after I read that book, all we talked about was bell hooks and who she was and who I wanted to be. I said then that I wanted to be a writer, like bell hooks, and change the world with my words.

I took her words with me when I went off to college, and by then, I had my own dog-eared copies of some of her books. I went to her work whenever I needed to be reminded of my strength. The world felt much safer when bell hooks and Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou were on the front line, carving out a path to freedom and modeling what a Black woman’s resistance to a system hellbent on trying to make them small looked like. bell hooks’ words went with me everywhere, even while they kept taking me back to myself.

I, like countless others over the past 40 years, was inspired by bell hooks, who died on Dec. 15, 2021, at 69. As a leading Black intellectual, hooks pushed the feminist movement beyond the preserve of the white and middle-class, encouraging Black and working class perspectives on gender inequality. She taught us about white supremacist capitalist patriarchal values – giving both the words to define it and the methods to dismantle it. And unlike previous generations, she prompted Black women like myself to see ourselves, claim ourselves and love ourselves with an unapologetic fierceness.

“No Black woman writer in this culture can write ‘too much,’” bell hooks once wrote, “Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’… No woman has ever written enough.”

I used to read her words to my sons when I was holding them in my arms, determined to practice “liberative parenting” and raise my Black sons as Black feminists.

I met bell hooks in person several times in my capacity as an activist, an officer of the National Women’s Studies Association and as a scholar of African American studies. I have heard her lecture and have spoken with her, and every time, I was speechless. In her presence, I was once again the 14-year-old, sitting on the porch, diving into her words and finding myself on the other side.

Her words, like my Nana’s hugs, always bought me back to myself, telling me, coaxing me, pushing me to become who I was meant to be in this world.

I remember speaking her words to the wind, hoping that if I ever forgot who I was, the wind would remind me. Whenever I am hungry for truth, I turn to her work. When I need support or encouragement, I turn to her work. When I need to be reminded of how to love and fight, I turn to her work.

So when I heard, read, realized and finally accepted that bell hooks – genius, scholar, cultural critic, truth speaker, one who had the strength to call out and challenge white supremacy and racism time and time again – had run on ahead to see how the end is going to be, all I could do was sit and breathe.

I am not OK.

None of us – feminists, scholars, activists, truth seekers, survivors – who have ever been touched by her work and her words are OK. Not today. Not at this moment, and not for a minute.

It is not enough to say she saved me from cutting off my tongue, because unless you know her genius, you will think that this is just about violence and not about salvation.

It is not enough to say that she saved me from burning it all down, because unless you know her brilliance, you will never understand how her words taught me how to come through the fire and be better and stronger on the other side.

Because she wrote and published extensively, “bell hooks” the writer – a pen name that she borrowed from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks – will never leave us, but Gloria Jean Watkins, did. The sun is not shining as bright as when she was still with us.

My son called to mourn with me and wanted to know which books I would recommend to someone who did not know who bell hooks was and did not understand why we were in mourning. I told him that they should start with these three, and once they have recovered from the truth of her words, they should then read her other 30-plus books and scholarly articles.

Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981)

A book cover shows the symbol for female under the title 'Ain't I A Woman'
The cover work for the first edition of ‘Ain’t I A Woman’ Wikimedia commons

In perhaps one of her most provocative works, hooks provides a true and clear analysis of what it means to live and be a Black woman in a racist, misogynist world. If you want to understand what it means to be Black and a woman, you start here and then keep going.

“It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term ‘feminism’, to focus on the fact that to be ‘feminist’ in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.” – Ain’t I a Woman

Feminist Theory: from margin to center (1984)

A red cover with an abstract image with the title 'Feminist Theory'
Cover art for Feminist Theory: from margin to center. Wikimedia Commons

When I was in college and struggling with understanding and defining what it meant to be a feminist, my professor Jane Bond Moore gave me her copy of “Feminist Theory” and told me to use it as a blueprint and a guide. This book is bell hooks at her best, wielding her pen as a weapon and using it to call out and critique white feminism and white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

“Our emphasis must be on cultural transformation: destroying dualism, eradicating systems of domination. Our feminist revolution here can be aided by the example of liberation struggles led by oppressed peoples globally who resist formidable powers. The formation of an oppositional world view is necessary for feminist struggle.” – Feminist Theory

Teaching to Transgress (1994)

A yellow book cover with a small ladder above the title 'Teaching to Transgress.'
Cover art for Teaching to Transgress. Routledge

As a former middle school teacher and current professor, my goal was to learn how to teach students how to transgress and why they should transgress against racial, sexual and class boundaries.

“Teaching to Transgress” lights the way for anyone who wants to use the classroom as a starting place to help our students claim agency over their own learning.

“We must continually claim theory as necessary practice within a holistic framework of liberatory activism.” – Teaching to Transgress

[Understand what’s going on in Washington. Sign up for The Conversation’s Politics Weekly.]The Conversation

Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Executive Director, Karson Institute for Race, Peace, & Social Justice, Loyola University Maryland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Progressive Lawmakers to Biden: 'Cancel Student Loan Debt.' All of It. Now.


"Student loan payments resume in 61 days. Borrowers are NOT ready or able to restart them," said Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.


December 3, 2021

A group of progressive lawmakers is urging the Biden administration to cancel student debt—a call they say is especially urgent in light of the fast-approaching end to a pandemic-related moratorium on payments.

"This is a crisis created through policy decisions."

"Student loan payments resume in 61 days. Borrowers are NOT ready or able to restart them," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted late Thursday.

"It's time for @POTUS to cancel student debt," she said.

Jayapal was among a number of progressive House Democrats who took to the floor Thursday to highlight the need for sweeping relief, some of whom spoke of their own lingering student debt burden.

Thirty-two-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who said the crisis—which now stands at over $1.8 trillion and affects roughly 45 million Americans—had reached a "ridiculous" level, noted that she still has over $17,000 in student loan debt and that the prospect of going deeper into debt prompted her decision not to pursue graduate school.

Part of the problem, she said, is that it can be "teenagers signing up for what is often hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt... and we think that's responsible policy."

"This is unacceptable," she said, adding federal policies in the U.S. are "actively disincentivizing" people from growing to college—a situation she called "backwards."

As Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) pointed out in her remarks, the educational debt isn't merely a problem for those recently out of school.

"I have 76-year-old constituents in the Massachusetts 7th still paying student loans," she said, "all while on Social Security and a fixed income."

President Joe Biden using his executive authority to wipe out $50,000 per borrower in student debt, said Pressley, would be "one of the most effective ways that he can provide sweeping relief to millions of families while helping to reduce the racial wealth gap to lay the groundwork for an equitable and just long term recovery."

"This is a crisis created through policy decisions," she added. "We have a responsibility to address it head-on."

Progressive groups and lawmakers have urged Biden to exercise the legal authority they say he has under Section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act to cancel student debt.

As of Thursday, the White House has not indicated a further extension of the loan payment pause relief, and while Education Department officials this week lamented the student debt crisis and touted the administration's efforts to provide relief to a small subsection of borrowers, a plan for broad debt cancellation was not put on the table.

In addition, a draft memo Biden requested on his authority over the cancelation was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Debt Collective—but it is nearly entirely redacted and has still not been made visible to the public.

The lawmakers' remarks came as new polling showed a dire economic situation by some borrowers as the payment moratorium ends at the end of January.

According to the survey by advocacy group Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC) and technology company Savi from Nov. 1-Nov.14, 89% of fully-employed student loan borrowers said they are not financially secure enough to resume payments when they start back up in less than two months.

Nearly as many respondents (87%) said the temporary loan relief made it possible for them to afford other bills during the Covid-19 crisis.

The survey findings, said SDCC president and founder Natalia Abrams, show "that student loan borrowers face economic obstacles that are larger and longer-lasting than we imagined. As the economy recovers, even fully-employed student loan borrowers are not financially secure enough to make payments again."

"Simply put," she said, "Americans with student debt aren't facing an employment crisis, they are facing a student debt crisis."

This article originally appeared at Originally published on December 3rd, 2021.It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 

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Friday, December 3, 2021

Vaccine apartheid is prolonging COVID – not vaccine hesitancy

There’s a colonial tendency to portray people in Africa as anti-science and averse to progress, when the real problem is Big Pharma’s monopoly

By Alena Ivanova

Next week will mark the first anniversary of the NHS administering the first COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials in a hospital in Coventry. Almost a year on from 8 December 2020, the Omicron variant threatens to ruin yet another holiday season and raises questions about the UK government’s approach.

But we already knew of the dangers of vaccine inequality. While the UK this morning announced it had ordered an additional 114 million COVID vaccine doses – despite around 85% of its adult population being fully vaccinated – just 6% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people have received two doses. And hastily reimposed travel bans on people from the African continent reveal more than the refusal of governments in the Global North to deal with the crisis at hand. The racist scapegoating of Black people has a history as old as public health itself.

There is no conclusive evidence that the new travel ban imposed by the UK on six countries in southern Africa will be effective. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to show that the new variant was circulating in Europe much before Omicron was identified in South Africa, thanks to the scientific rigour and openness of South African researchers. Arbitrary travel bans can affect scientific cooperation and knowledge-sharing, as Tulio de Oliveira, director of South Africa’s Centre for Epidemic Response & Innovation, has warned. He tweeted that travel restrictions mean laboratories don’t get essential supplies.

But politicians and CEOs in the Global North have been busy excusing their dreadful track record on cooperation with low- and middle-income countries, blaming the low vaccination levels in southern Africa on hesitancy. Soundbites such as Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla’s claim that vaccine hesitancy in low-income countries is “way, way higher than the percentage of hesitancy in Europe or in the US or Japan”, have angered many, who have accused them of being tropes grounded in racism – akin to those used during the HIV crisis. In reality, research has suggested a higher willingness to take COVID vaccines in lower- and middle-income countries. But portraying people in Africa as anti-science and averse to progress has long been the coloniser’s excuse to dominate and subjugate and we should not be surprised that it keeps rearing its ugly head. What’s worrying is the speed with which such excuses are adopted by the UK government, while being left unchallenged by the media.

Britain’s Africa minister, Vicky Ford, has repeatedly evaded the issue of vaccine supplies to low- and middle-income countries, focussing instead on their vaccine hesitancy when questioned in Parliament. But research shows no basis for such claims. Africa’s problem is not hesitancy but the fact that many of its healthcare systems are ravaged by privatisation, often imposed by countries such as the UK. Is it any wonder that most African countries are unable to respond quickly and efficiently to the uncertain supply of donated vaccines that arrive with little warning?

Even the so-called ‘level-playing field’ of the market doesn’t seem to deliver for African countries. Earlier this year, Botswana ordered 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine at a higher price than was paid by some richer countries. Delivery was expected in August, but as Zain Rizvi, a drug policy expert at US think tank Public Citizen, has noted, none had appeared by October.

What’s more, vaccine hesitancy exists everywhere. The early stages of the vaccination programme in Europe were marred by controversy around the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, with several countries suspending the inoculation drive or switching vaccines by age group. Even now, enclaves of vaccine hesitancy and mistrust remain across the continent, yet nobody seems to deny European countries the right to an adequate supply of doses.

So where do we really stand on vaccine inequality? COVAX, the global mechanism that was supposed to facilitate equal sharing of doses through a centralised donation and purchasing scheme, has failed. Its original goal of distributing two billion doses across the world during 2021 won’t be met. Instead, COVAX now has a revised goal of distributing 1.45 billion doses by the end of the year. But at the time of writing, only 589 million doses had been shipped; shockingly half a million of those were delivered to the UK.

Pharmaceutical companies tell us that supply is not the problem. Yet, with rich countries guzzling the existing doses and refusing to share equally, the only just solution is to expand supply. But a waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests – a proposal to increase production that is supported by much of the world –is being blocked by the same countries that have hoarded doses and protected the financial interests of big pharma.

This article originally appeared at on and originally published on December 2, 2021.  This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. 

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Sunday, October 31, 2021

Details of the money behind Jan. 6 protests continue to emerge

New details of how a top fundraiser for former President Donald Trump’s campaign “parked” funds with groups that helped organize the Jan. 6 rally before the Capitol attack shine light on the coordination between seemingly independent groups and the role of Trump campaign officials.

Caroline Wren, a top fundraiser for Trump’s campaign who was listed as a “VIP Advisor” on the permit granted by the National Park Service for the Jan. 6 rally, reportedly boasted of raising $3 million for the protest before the Capitol riot. She then “parked” funds with two “dark money” groups that helped organize the protest and a closely-tied super PAC, ProPublica reported last week. 

“Parking” funds across multiple groups can give the appearance of more widespread support from multiple independently-operating organizations and makes it more difficult to trace the source of funds. 

The strategy “added a layer of confidentiality for the donor and offered institutional support for the 6th,” Dustin Stockton, a Republican operative who helped Women for America First organize the rally, told ProPublica.

Earlier reports estimated the rally only cost about half a million dollars, primarily funded by a $300,000 donation from Publix supermarket heir Julie Jenkins Fancelli to Women for America First, the 501(c)(4) nonprofit “dark money” group that submitted the rally’s permit records to the National Park Service.

Women for America First’s co-founder, Amy Kremer, and her daughter have been subpoenaed by the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. They are scheduled for depositions on Oct. 29.

Stockton was also a spokesperson for WeBuildtheWall when former White House adviser Steve Bannon and three others affiliated with the dark money group were charged with fraud related to the online fundraising effort in 2020. Stockton was not charged. The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack found Bannon in contempt last week for refusing to comply with a subpoena. 

Two of the other organizations that ProPublica reported helped store funds for the rally, Rule of Law Trust and Turning Point, are dark money groups that were listed as organizers of the rally.

Tea Party Express is the one group named by ProPublica that was not listed as an organizer on the rally website.

Launched in 2010 as a project of the political action committee Our Country Deserves Better PAC, Tea Party Express gained national attention for its rallies and bus tours. But it was criticized for diverting a  large portion of its fundraising to consultants instead of supporting candidates.

Kermer, a longtime political organizer, was Tea Party Express’ chair from 2009 to 2014.

One of the dark money groups that reportedly parked funds and helped promote the rally, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, is the 501(c)(4) affiliated with the Republican Attorneys General Association.

At least $150,000 of the Rule of Law Defense Fund’s money for the rally reportedly came from Fancelli in a Dec. 29 donation a little more than a week before the rally, according to records reviewed by the Washington Post.  

Other Rule of Law Defense Fund donors included opaque nonprofits such as the Koch network’s Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Edison Electric Institute, Empowering Ohio’s Economy and the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Turning Point, the other organization that parked funds and helped organize the rally, is best known for its conservative youth engagement efforts and digital operations, which were used to promote the rally. 

The operation’s flagship nonprofit organization, Turning Point USA, reported raising more than $39.2 million from undisclosed donors in its most recent tax year spanning from July 2019 through the end of June 2020, according to new tax records obtained by OpenSecrets.

The tax records show how Turning Point’s operation continued to grow in the leadup to the 2020 election and subsequent fallout. 

Turning Point USA brought in $4.3 million and its president, Charlie Kirk, reported earning just $27,231 for 65-hour weeks, according to organizations’ 2016 tax records.  

By the 2018-2019 fiscal year, Kirk’s salary grew to $292,423 as its annual revenue rose to $28.5 million, with one $6.2 million anonymous donation and multiple additional contributions over $1 million. Turning Point Action attracted more than $1.1 million from July 2018 through the end of June 2019.

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Kirk made more than $329,000 across Turning Point-affiliated organizations.

The scope and reach of Turning Point’s influencer operation also grew during the Trump administration. 

The organization’s digital operations faced media scrutiny in 2020 when social media platforms removed hundreds of accounts run by Rally Forge LLC after reporting found teenagers paid to post thousands of coordinated messages, giving the appearance of organic grassroots support for messages boosting Trump as well as unfounded information about coronavirus, voting and other topics.

Turning Point USA paid about $500,000 to Rally Forge LLC during its most recent fiscal year. 

Turning Point USA and Turning Point Action, the 501(c)(4) arm of Turning Point that was officially listed as an organizer on the rally website, collectively paid another $1 million to Rally Forge LLC disclosed in their 2018-2019 tax returns obtained by OpenSecrets.

Turning Point has received more than $1 million from Republican mega-donor Richard Uihlein’s family foundation, including $250,000 in 2019.

Uihlein was also a major donor to other groups affiliated with rally organizers. He contributed to the Women for Trump hybrid PAC affiliated with Women for America First, and Uilehin was the top 2020 election donor to the super PAC affiliated with Tea Party Patriots, another rally organizer. Uihlein has given the Tea Party Patriots super PAC about $4.3 million since the 2016 election. 

The Judicial Crisis Network, a dark money group now legally named the Concord Fund, also contributed to multiple groups involved in the rally. The dark money group gave at least $4.7 million to the Tea Party Patriots, $50,000 to Turning Point Action and $1.9 million to the Rule of Law Defense Fund from 2013 to 2019, according to OpenSecrets’ review of its tax records. And it gave millions more to the affiliated Republican Attorneys General Association. 

Trump campaign officials’ roles in organizing the protests on Jan. 6 only add to the opacity. 

Wren made at least $170,000 from Trump’s political operation during the 2020 election cycle for her work as the campaign’s national finance consultant with the joint fundraising committee. In total, Trump’s ​​political operation reported paying more than $4.3 million to people and firms that organized the Jan. 6 rally since the start of the 2020 election. 

Megan Powers, Justin Caporale, Maggie Mulvaney, Tim Unes and Wren — organizers of the rally who were paid by Trump ‘s political operation — have all been subpoenaed by the House select committee.

Trump’s 2020 campaign and joint fundraising committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, funneled another $771 million in payments through American Made Media Consultants LLC during the 2020 election cycle. The joint fundraising committee steered about $685,000 through the LLC in 2021 with around a third of that going to text messaging on Jan. 6. 

But since the Trump campaign did not disclose details of payments AMMC LLC made to subcontractors, the full roster of people working for Trump’s campaign and the amount of money that changed hands remains hidden from the public.

This article originally appeared in October 25, 2021


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