First we heard that radical-left activist Linda Sarsour had put out a call for donations for “Harvey relief,” to be made to a SEIU-funded advocacy organization that plans to make political hay of the disaster. Donors’ money wouldn’t be going to help flood victims; it would be going to fund political activism.
Then we got word that the Lilith Fund has focused on providing money to pay for abortions for women displaced by the Hurricane Harvey flooding. Matt Vespa muses:
Dear Houston residents, if you don’t have water, towels, food, or shelter, the Lilith Fund doesn’t have any of that—but they will provide resources to procure an abortion if that’s what’s on your mind in the wake of a horrific storm.
Donations are being solicited, under the guise of “Harvey relief,” for Lilith Fund’s abortion money pot.
— Danielle Campoamor (@DCampoamor) August 31, 2017
Now California’s Senator Kamala Harris has put out her own call for donations to help “Harvey victims.”
When times are tough, we stand together, united. Help make a donation to support local nonprofits in Texas → https://t.co/okm84QWPTP
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 31, 2017
This is the text of the appeal (emphasis in original):
Donate to Support Flood Victims in Texas
The spirit of the American people is that when times are tough, we stand together and united. That’s why I’m asking you to donate today.
Even a small donation can make an incredible difference to flood victims in Texas.
It’s not that there aren’t a few agencies in the list at her donation page that will provide actual, direct support to flood victims in Texas.
But you have to click through to the page with the list, to make sure that’s who you’re donating to. If you don’t – if you just make a quick donation from the original Harris donation page – your money will end up going to agencies that don’t provide actual disaster relief. Their work is political advocacy.
Of the listed agencies, Meals on Wheels is an organization that literally delivers meals on wheels. Boys and Girls Clubs of the Coastal Bend is working to reopen damaged local sites that will provide direct services to at-risk kids in a devastated community.
The humane society agencies for animals provide direct services too, if that’s what you want to prioritize for your giving.
At another level, the food and diaper banks typically act as clearinghouses and fundraisers for material support that gets delivered by third parties. (Indeed, the website for the Houston Food Bank still says today, 1 September, that its emergency food pantry is closed. That’s understandable given the local conditions. Distributing food to people in need right now is largely a matter of making sure it gets to shelters and other aggregation points, which is what the third parties generally do.)
But these banks are at least focused at the moment on collecting and distributing actual aid for actual flood victims.
Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies, for its part, is a coordination and pass-through agency; it raises and uses funds to specifically target post-disaster support for disabled people (often by arranging for other parties to pay for it). It’s a coordinator rather than a direct provider, but it is involved in getting actual, specialized aid (such as medicine and unique supplies) to disabled flood victims.
The political hangers-on
By contrast, Harris’ request for donations includes other organizations that don’t provide emergency relief services, but instead are involved in community organization, conservation, planning, political advocacy, managing federal and state grant money, and making grants themselves.
What those organizations will be doing after Harvey isn’t helping flood victims. It’s advocating development, education, “social justice,” “redistribution,” and “environmental” policies with local and state governments.
There’s nothing wrong with those organizations doing their thing. But they shouldn’t be lumped in for charitable-donation purposes with Meals on Wheels and the SPCA, which actually provide direct humane services to people and animals. When folks want to give after a disaster, that’s what they imagine their money going to.
Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, for example, advocates for policies on homelessness. It’s quite explicit at its website that it doesn’t provide services to homeless people.
Although the Coalition does not provide any direct services to clients, it serves as the backbone organization to many other groups that do. The Coalition serves those who serve the homeless through research, project management, system capacity building, and public policy.
The Coalition for the Homeless is a major partner with the city and county in its “Continuum of Care” project; this 2014 report from Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department clarifies the integrated relationship, including the fact that the city department funds the advocacy work of the local Coalition for the Homeless.
Based on its profile outlined in the 2014 report, the Continuum of Care project is effectively a regional planning effort, an element in the massive suite of such efforts subsumed under the aegis of the UN’s Agenda 21. You give to the Coalition for the Homeless, that’s what you’re giving to. For this field of advocacy, Hurricane Harvey represents a political opportunity.
The Galveston Bay Foundation is a conservation and environmental advocacy group. The Coastal Bend Community Foundation is a fundraising and grant-making organization for community activities and services. Its monetary dealings seem to involve mostly private donors – as opposed to the dealings of the Nueces County Community Action Agency, which devotes its energies to managing numerous federal and state grants.
Initiatives like Head Start, arts scholarships, advocacy for pre-K teacher requirements, and children’s mental health assessment programs may be good to have. But their connection with assisting flood victims at the point of immediate need is tenuous, at best.
The practice of lumping political (and/or “civil society”) giving with solicitations for true, emergency-relief charity keeps cropping up on the left in Harvey’s wake. Interestingly, some of the agencies listed in Kamala Harris’ donation request appear alongside Linda Sarsour’s suggested organization – the Texas Organizing Project – in this list proposed by Bustle.
Bustle begins by posting negative innuendo about the Red Cross, and goes on to list organizations you might want to give to instead, starting with the Texas Organizing Project. The Bustle list has three agencies from Harris’ list, including the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County. Only one of the Bustle nine (Feeding Texas) actually performs work related to the image at the top, of children receiving food assistance.
The Obama-connected middleman
But that pattern isn’t surprising, in light of the method by which Harris’ donation appeal has donors giving. The middleman handling the donations is ActBlue Charities, an arm of the political mega-bundler ActBlue, which has been funding Democratic candidates and left-wing non-profits (i.e., policy advocacy groups) since 2004.
In fact, ActBlue gained notoriety in 2008 for helping Barack Obama and other Democrats evade federal election laws (see here as well), and cutting off ActBlue services to Obama’s Democratic critics and opponents.
The bundler was back in 2012, serving even more Democrats (including Elizabeth Warren), and again in 2016. Alert readers will recall that the Georgia-06 congressional election this year was pounded by out of state donations to the Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff – the overwhelming majority of which came (a) from the San Francisco Bay area (coincidentally, Oakland-born Kamala Harris’ native and political home in California) and (b) through ActBlue.
ActBlue Charities may be a separately incorporated entity from the explicitly political ActBlue bundler. But that doesn’t mean the “charities” arm is devoted to what most Americans think of as charity. AB Charities is bundling donations for the advocacy groups on the Harris list, after all. And although it’s dicey finding examples of its “hundreds” of clients, one that I did come across, the Economic Policy Institute, is a left-wing think tank.
(Which, unsurprisingly, receives donations from the Open Society Foundations. For another connection between ActBlue Charities and George Soros – in this case, the Tides Foundation – see here.)
AB Charities has one very important feature in common with all of the fundraising arms of ActBlue. It assesses a 3.95% fee to the organizational clients on all donations made through ActBlue. So when you donate to Kamala Harris’ list, you not only contribute – unless you’re very careful – to political advocacy; you contribute to ActBlue.
As indicated in some of the preceding links, the haul from ActBlue fees has mounted into the millions over the last decade. Most of it is spent on more ActBlue work: fundraising for progressive politics.
Finally, as noted in my May 2017 post (link above and here), donor information entered with ActBlue goes into a massive database used for political purposes by progressive left organizations like Organizing for Action and MoveOn.org. So even if you donate only to Meals on Wheels at Kamala Harris’ ActBlue page, you’re still contributing to ActBlue, and signing up to be tracked and analyzed for political profit by the left.
Why not just give instead to the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, or the Red Cross? At least, with those organizations, you know your donation is causing actual help to be delivered to people in need – without any politically tendentious overhead.