UNDER THE HOOD
Exclusive: Pro-Trump Group, Turning Point USA, Has Finances Revealed
The group gave money to an affiliate but none to charity.
This story originally appeared in The Daily Beast newsletter, Pay Dirt. Sign up for that newsletter: HERE.
PAY DIRT has obtained the latest annual tax filing for Turning Point USA, the conservative youth activist outfit run by pro-Trump pundit and Don Jr. co-author Charlie Kirk. The filing, which covers the period from July 2016 through June 2017, shows Trump’s ascendancy has been a bonanza for the group. Turning Point brought in more than $8.2 million, up from $4.3 million in the previous fiscal year. Its expenditures more than doubled, to more than $8.3 million.
The majority of that budget—about $4.3 million—went to payroll expenses for Turning Point staffers and expenses associated with its conferences and events. Kirk himself reported just $49,096 in annual income from the group. In a section of the form detailing the breakdown of its salary expenses, Turning Point itemized that exact sum as fundraising expenses, indicating Kirk’s role for the group is primarily raising money. It had just one other salaried senior staffer, and paid an Arizona-based firm called Rally Forge LLC for communications consulting work.
Turning Point reported $1.87 million in grants to other charitable groups. But the vast majority of that sum, $1,825,150, was given to an affiliated nonprofit arm, the Turning Point Endowment, to which the IRS granted tax-exempt status this year. It reported an additional $45,000 in grants to individuals, but the form doesn’t list who those individuals are.
That means that Turning Point gave out exactly zero grant money to any charitable organization not directly affiliated with Turning Point itself. That, of course, doesn’t tell the full story. Turning Point isn’t a grantmaking organization; its nonprofit program activities take place in-house, and its tax filing says about 88 percent of its budget went toward program expenses.
That would make its lack of grantmaking unremarkable, but for Kirk’s own public statements of late. Responding to allegations that Donald Trump illegally used his personal foundation to benefit his presidential campaign, Kirk claimed that all of the Trump Foundation’s money went to charitable grants, whereas the Clinton Foundation sent “only 6.4 percent of money to charities.” But like Turning Point, the Clinton Foundation conducts most of its charitable work in-house. Grantmaking is not the sole measure of a charitable group’s activities or effectiveness, as Kirk suggests. If it were, Turning Point’s record would be vastly more problematic than the Clinton Foundation’s.