Activist Shaun King, who over the years has been the focus of social media criticism over his fundraising efforts, is the subject of a lengthy new piece in the Daily Beast examining the financials of the web of nonprofit organizations and political action committees that he runs.
The story reviewed previously-undisclosed tax documents from King’s Grassroots Law Project, a nonprofit organization that has worked since 2020 with progressive district attorneys in Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco to set up commissions aimed at addressing systemic harm caused by law enforcement and prosecutors in those cities. That nonprofit, the Daily Beast reported, drew in $6.67 million in contributions in 2020, the year it opened, spending about $500,000 on the “Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commissions,” and another nearly $2.1 million on other social justice initiatives including donations to other orgs, legal defense funds and what the DB wrote were “campaigns for prosecutorial leniency.”
The story also looked at how closely tied the nonprofit group is to political action committees—groups that are allowed to raise money to support candidates but aren’t allowed to coordinate with campaigns themselves. As a rule, nonprofit organizations aren’t allowed to support political candidates directly, although many of them have created affiliated PACs that support candidates aligned with the non-profit’s mission. King is a vocal supporter of progressive prosecutors, especially Philly DA Larry Krasner, who the local police union and conservatives worked hard to defeat in his last bid for re-election.
King, a Morehouse College graduate and former minister, became one of the most prominent activist voices as the movement against police violence took shape, using his social media accounts to quickly draw attention to cases of police abuse. He’s also been a prolific fundraiser for families of some of the victims and for various ventures of his own, which has led to some painting him as a grifter although he’s never been charged with misappropriating funds.
The Daily Beast story dropped at a time when other prominent activists and organizations are also under scrutiny for their finances. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation released its nonprofit tax filing for the first time earlier this year after a New York Magazine piece revealed that the org was delinquent in filing the form, and that its co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, had actually lived in a $5.8 million California home that was purchased with the organziation’s funds. Cullors, who is no longer part of the foundation, had previously said she never lived in the residence.
Earlier this month, some BLM grassroots organizers filed a $10 million lawsuit against a Shalomyah Bowers, a consultant for the organization, alleging he siphoned off millions in donations for himself.