FORT MYERS, FLORIDA — Several Florida-based progressive non-profits are keeping quiet about a dark money fund advertised as Hurricane Ian Response Fund.
On Friday, the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee distributed a press release highlighting the opaque fund, which is housed at Organize Action, a 501(c)4 tax exempt dark money organization. The coalition of groups listed on ianresponse.org as “on-the-ground” organizations are Florida Rising, Dream Defenders, Florida Immigrant Coalition, FL Jobs With Justice and Faith in Florida. Last week, 30 Florida sheriffs denounced Florida Rising by calling out the group for “anti-law enforcement hate speech and [a] defund the police agenda.”
The website tells donors that “your contribution will benefit Organize Action - Hurricane Relief” and that the fund “will address urgent response needs of impacted communities, ensure equitable state and federal responses, and provide emergency aid throughout the state via a network of grassroots organizations that are standing by to quickly address the needs of their communities.”
LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
Gifts made to 501(c)4 organizations are not tax-deductible, as these nonprofits are not required to provide financial transparency. According to Open Secrets, “They may engage in political activities, as long as these activities do not become their primary purpose. The IRS has never defined what ‘primary’ means, or how a percentage should be calculated, so the current de facto rule is 49.9 percent of overall expenditures, a limit that some groups have found easy to circumvent.”
Neither the Florida Ian Response Fund nor Organize Action appear on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ “Check-A-Charity” online database that provides the financial information reported to the department from charitable organizations.
Florida’s Voice reported that Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried would be willing to investigate the groups.
“I always am encouraging everybody before you give a single dollar to an organization to go onto our check-a-charity on our website to check it out,” Fried said. “And if somebody gives or there’s something that doesn’t seem right or it just doesn’t pass the sniff test, certainly put it in a report into our office and we investigate every complaint that comes in. We want to make sure that consumers are giving of their money and it’s going to a cause that is beneficial.”
ACTBLUE AND BLM
Ianresponse.org collects donations through ActBlue, a digital platform “available to Democratic candidates and committees, progressive organizations, and nonprofits that share our values.”
Back in June 2020, Black Lives Matter (BLM) was accused of channeling funds directly into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by using ActBlue to collect donations. ActBlue’s top recipients at the time were presidential campaigns for Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren. The platform supports hundreds of left-wing groups across the country, including many that support transitioning transgender youth and various other LGBTQ causes.
In February, a Washington Examiner investigation revealed BLM had continued raising money after they claimed to have “shut down online fundraising.” One day later the group deactivated their ActBlue fundraising pages.
NO RESPONSE TO INQUIRY
The Florida Standard contacted each of the nonprofits listed on the site, in addition to Organize Action, asking for comment and clarification about the destination of the donations. None of them have responded.
Florida Rising has endorsed prominent Democrat candidates in the state, including Charlie Crist, Val Demmings, Lorranne Ausley, Janet Cruz, Janelle Perez, Eunic Ortiz and Joy Goff-Marcil.