The Billionaires Behind BLM By Charles Taylor

     A great article at Tabletmag, exposing the billionaires behind Black Lives Matter. Why have a group of capitalists backed radical Marxists? Say, wasn’t that what happened in 1917 with the Soviet communist revolution? They never learn, but just have to keep trying, probably being genetically programmed to do so:

“In July of 2013, the seeds of the most powerful protest movement of the modern era were planted. In a restless climate of nationwide demonstrations touched off by the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an activist named Alicia Garza uttered the phrase “Black lives matter.” A few months later, in October 2013, Garza took a job with an organization called the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the nonprofit immediately saw a dramatic increase in its funding from organizations tied to some of the wealthiest people in the world—people with names like Buffett, Soros, and Rockefeller. This spring, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the movement became a global interest: Some 1.1 million individual donations worth an estimated $33 million flowed into its coffers. Large corporations, especially in Silicon Valley and retail, have been quick to follow suit, with brands like Square, Ubisoft, Google, Spanx, Tom’s Shoes, Lululemon, Nike, and Anastasia Beauty all making six- and seven-figure organizational pledges. The received wisdom, echoing the official mythology around Black Lives Matter Global Network Inc.—co-founded by Garza along with fellow activists Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors—is that BLM is a grassroots movement that rose up organically out of the widespread rage sparked by viral videos of Black American men killed by police officers. According to this account, the political priorities of activists in Brooklyn screaming at cops and calling to defund the police have been fused with those of suburban moms in Peloton T-shirts, hand-painting signs with their kids using the BLM hashtags of large multinational conglomerates—an unusual union of protesters and the corporate boardroom spurred on by nothing more than everyone’s shared outrage over racism.

There is, however, another version of events, in which the heartfelt dedication to racial justice is only the forward-facing side of a more complicated movement. Behind the street level activism and emotional outpouring is a calculated machinery built by establishment money and power that has seized on racial politics, in which some of the biggest capitalists in the world are financially backing a group of self-described “trained Marxists”—a label that Cullors enthusiastically applies to herself and the group’s other co-founders. These bedfellows, whose stories and fortunes are never publicly presented as related, are in reality intertwined under the umbrella of a fiscal sponsor named the International Development Exchange. A modestly endowed West Coast nonprofit with origins in the Peace Corps—which for decades supported local farmers, shepherds, and agricultural workers across the Global South—IDEX has, in the past six years, been transformed into two distinct new things: the infrastructure back end to the Black Lives Matter organization in the United States and also, at the very same time, an investment fund vehicle driven by recruited MBAs and finance experts seeking to leverage decades of on-the-ground grantee relationships for novel forms of potentially problematic lending instruments. And it did so with help from the family of one of the most famous American billionaires in history—the Oracle of Omaha himself.

In a small village in Northern Thailand in 1965, a young American Peace Corps volunteer named Paul Strasburg took up the plight of locals who could not afford to build a new school. Strasburg wanted to help, but he was short on cash. Calls back to friends on Long Island led to a one-off fundraising effort, which resulted in a few thousand dollars in donations to cover building materials. Twenty years later, the legacy of that effort to channel Western money into repairing one small corner of Thailand, led Strasburg in 1985 to found a nonprofit, the International Development Exchange (IDEX). For the next several decades, IDEX’s small team in the California Bay Area connected donors in wealthy nations to fund small projects throughout the developing world. In the beginning, the sums involved were modest, in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars range. Over time, microfinancing across the Global South became a fashionable philanthropic endeavor. By the early 2000s, even as IDEX maintained a low profile, they grew a diverse grant portfolio stretching across Asia, South Africa, and Latin America. IDEX existed to play a middleman role, identifying and vetting underfunded projects for philanthropists and financial backers who don’t have the time to personally investigate every new well-digging project a continent away. But as the nonprofit’s network grew, and the group came to exert some degree of financial leverage over the core labor pool, textile manufacturing, and agricultural production of some 750 community groups across 37 countries, the middleman started to look like the manager of an investment portfolio. In the same way that a growing religious group tends to naturally become a large real estate holder, IDEX’s constellation of contacts and infrastructure became a valuable asset—potentially offering on-the-ground access to valuable commodities while flying under the radar of multinational competitors and government agencies. Indeed, in 2013, after decades attending to the patient, detailed work of making grants to farmers in Guatemala, IDEX underwent a sudden transformation—just as the Black Lives Matter movement was beginning in earnest. For the decade prior, according to their financial disclosures, donor revenue to IDEX, which changed its name to Thousand Currents in 2016, remained in the modest six figures, often around $500,000 to $600,000 annually. But in 2013, IDEX received an unprecedented $450,000 in grant funding from a single source—raising from one donation about 73% of what the organization had taken in the year prior. That donor was NoVo, a social justice foundation formed in 2006 by Peter Buffett—the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett—and Peter’s wife, Jennifer.

At the same time NoVo was making its first large donations to IDEX, the philanthropy also made another, even larger donation of $750,000 to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, where in October of 2013, Garza was hired as special projects director. NoVo, with Peter and Jennifer Buffett behind it, deepened its relations to the new racial justice movement, donating $300,000 in 2014 to IDEX—the group that would soon become BLM’s financial sponsor—plus another $750,000 to NDWA, where Garza worked. Garza did not respond to Tablet’s requests for comment on this article. In 2015, the connection between the Buffett’s giving to the two organizations became explicit. In that year, NoVo gifted $3.72 million to IDEX, a sum greater than the organization’s past three years of total revenue combined. Of that funding, $700,000 was specifically earmarked for the support of the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM co-founder Garza likewise saw her employer, NDWA, get a significant bump in revenue from NoVo, with an exponentially increased $4.5 million in unrestricted funding. Along with their new patron in NoVo, in 2015 IDEX made an addition to their board of directors—a woman named Susan Rosenberg. The child of a Manhattan dentist, Rosenberg grew up in comfort—one might now say “with privilege”—on the Upper West Side in the 1960s. She attended Walden day school and then Barnard, and emerged in the early ’70s as a fervent activist disillusioned by American imperialism and the Vietnam War in particular. Rosenberg joined the Weather Underground, where she took up with a cohort of other young, affluent, highly educated white women to found a group called May 19th, which by 1979 was working alongside the Black Liberation Army. The three groups carried out a series of bombings, shootings, and robberies in which dozens of innocent people were killed and maimed. Rosenberg’s role in the Black rights movement satisfied her desire to push back against an American government that she saw as inherently violent and racist. 

Over the next several years, “the white edge” of the Black liberation movement helped spring key liberation leaders from jail, including a bomb maker held in New York’s Bellevue hospital. They also worked a series of bank robberies, the most high-profile of which was the infamous botched Brinks armored car robbery on Oct. 20, 1981, in Nanuet, New York, in which six BLA members and four members of the Weather Underground stole $1.6 million from a Brinks truck, killing Brinks guard Peter Paige and wounding two other men in the truck. In the course of their attempted getaway, the robbers shot and killed two Nyack police officers, Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown, and seriously wounded a police detective named Artie Keenan. Indicted by the FBI for driving the getaway vehicle, Rosenberg fled the scene and went underground until her arrest in 1984 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, when she and a partner attempted to transfer 740 pounds of dynamite, a dozen guns, and hundreds of fake IDs from a rental truck to a storage facility. Though the indictment for the Brinks robbery was still on the books, those charges would be dropped by then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, who instead pursued the more recent weapons and explosives charges. Rosenberg was convicted of those charges and sentenced to 58 years in prison for domestic terrorism. That term would ultimately be cut short in January of 2001 by more than two-thirds when, on the last day of his presidency, Bill Clinton granted Rosenberg executive clemency. Rosenberg was installed on the board of directors of IDEX in the second half of 2015. Her first full year of service saw the initial public announcement of the formal collaboration between the Black Lives Matter movement and IDEX. While continuing their charity work in the Global South, IDEX would also take on “the legacies of colonialism” in the United States. To that end, IDEX—now Thousand Currents—became BLM’s official fiscal sponsor—an IRS designation wherein a government-sanctioned nonprofit can accept and manage tax-deductible donations on behalf of another organization that has not attained nonprofit status. In addition to managing BLM’s finances, Thousand Currents took over the movement’s “administrative and back office support, including finance, accounting, grants management, insurance, human resources, legal and compliance,” according to a Thousand Currents statement. Any question about how seriously NoVo was invested in setting up Thousand Currents as the financial and administrative power behind Black Lives Matter was put to rest in 2017 and 2018. In those years, NoVo dispersed a whopping $12.91 million grant to Thousand Currents. By then the group had promoted Susan Rosenberg to vice chairman of the Board of Directors.

The infusion of $33 million in donations into BLM has recently led to new scrutiny of the group’s financial arrangements. Several inquiries were also made by predominantly conservative media organizations into why Susan Rosenberg, a convicted domestic terrorist, held a senior position of the board of Thousand Currents, in charge of the movement’s money. In a statement released in early July, Thousand Currents clarified why they had scraped their website of information about their board’s identity, as well as previously posted documents on the organization’s finances. Pointing at “attacks … aimed at discrediting the Black-led, multiracial mass movement of millions of people around the world who are speaking out against state-sanctioned violence, anti-Blackness, racism, and white supremacy,” the Thousand Currents statement said the removal of information from the web was part of an effort “to protect our team … [and] shield the privacy and safety of our staff, donors, and partners.” A few days later, on July 10, according to documents filed with the California attorney general, the Thousand Currents board voted unanimously to “transfer the fiscal sponsorship of the BLM Project” to another California-based nonprofit known as the Tides Center, which along with the Tides Foundation exists underneath the control of the Tides Network—an umbrella organization which managed more than $591 million in revenue in 2018. The transfer of BLM’s fiscal sponsorship from Thousand Currents to the Tides Network would appear to end the relationship between NoVo and the Black Lives Matter movement. However, according to public financial documents, NoVo has continued its relationship with BLM, just through a different shell organization. Indeed, NoVo is now even more deeply involved with BLM now that BLM is a part of the Tides Network: In 2018 alone, NoVo dispersed more than 100 separate donations totaling at least $121 million to Tides directly.”

     Obviously, the aim of the super-capitalists is to repeat the 1917 revolution, because … well … they just want to. We can’t say it is to rule the world, as they already do, and have everything. It must be boredom from hyper-affluence producing a nihilistic lust for destruction, because none of this makes sense, or is going to end well.



No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Sunday, 23 June 2024

Captcha Image