A fascinating paper trail created by Media Matters For America and its lobbying affiliate, Media Matters Action Network, showcases the wealthy political machine that The Daily Caller has been exploring this week.
TheDC has obtained copies of both organisations’ tax returns from 2010 (neither has filed a 2011 return yet), and Media Matters For America’s audited financial statement from the same year. The documents are chock full of insights into what can happen when wealthy left-wing donors lavish no-strings-attached cash on partisan activists.
Tax experts, to say nothing of congressional staffers, may soon be poring over these papers for insight into how Media Matters has managed to keep its tax-exempt status intact. But TheDC has identified 10 nuggets of information that stand out from its 2010 financials.
- Together, Media Matters and Media Matters Action collected $14.6 million in 2010. That represented a massive increase over the $8.1 million the groups raised in 2009.
- While Media Matters does not publicly identify any of its donors, it is required to disclose the largest dollar amounts it received from individual contributors. Its 21 most generous donors gave more than $7.6 million in 2010 — more than half the total it raised. Two of those donors contributed more than $1 million each.
- Media Matters reported paying more than $5.7 million in salaries and benefits, including to seven staffers who earned more than $100,000 each. CEO David Brock was compensated by both Media Matters and Media Matters Action, with a total package of more than $299,000. Eric Boehlert racked up over $119,000 in compensation, making him one of the best-paid bloggers in Washington.
- During 2008, Media Matters entered into a fundraising-sharing agreement with the liberal centre for American Progress, which is run by former Bill Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. According to the agreement, “both organisations agreed to collaborate to raise funds to create a definitive progressive nerve centre,” and to “split, equally, all contributions raised for the progressive nerve centre.” In 2010 Media Matters paid the centre for American Progress $212,000 as its share of the fundraising take.
- Media Matters Action, the organisation’s lobbying arm, gave away $125,000 of its donors’ money to the Herndon Alliance, a Seattle organisation that advocates for universal healthcare. The grant was earmarked for “rapid response media capability for countering misinformation and obstructive rhetoric.” It also gave $135,000 to ProgressNow, an online grassroots organising project that supports Democratic causes.
- Media Matters For America gave $200,000 to the Citizen Engagement Laboratory, the parent group of colour of Change, which was founded by former White House “green jobs czar” Van Jones. The grant was described as funding a “campaign to expose Glenn Beck’s racist rhetoric in an effort to educate advertisers about the practices on his show.”
- The Media Matters organisations used only one professional fundraiser — the Virginia-based Bonner Group, which is aligned with other Democratic causes. Bonner collected $12 million in donations, keeping just over $1.4 million of it — about 11.7 per cent — in fees. The firm describes itself online as a “non-profit and Democratic political fundraising firm” that “has worked for major non-profit organisations, Presidential campaigns, House & Senate campaigns, Gubernatorial campaigns, Lieutenant Governor campaigns, ballot initiatives and ‘527′ organisations.”
- Media Matters signed a 10-year lease on its office space, ending June 30, 2020. Beginning in 2011, its annual rent was more than $1 million. The organisation went on a $362,000 furniture spending spree in 2010: At the end of 2009 it reported owning less than $22,000 in “office furniture and fixtures,” but by the end of 2010 that number was above $384,000.
- At the end of 2010, Media Matters and Media Matters Action had a combined $11.5 million in assets, including more than $3.9 million in cash and cash investments and $2 million in “publicly traded securities.”
- Media Matters reported at the end of 2010 that $612,500 of its assets were “restricted” by donors to be applied to “gun and public safety issues.” During this time, The Daily Caller has already reported, Brock’s personal assistant was carrying a holstered and concealed Glock handgun when he accompanied Brock to events.
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