Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Exposing the Minutemen

-- by Dave

My investigative piece on the Minutemen and their finances is now available in this month's edition of The American Prospect.

It's essentially a portrait of a right-wing movement in decline, largely under the weight of financial mismanagement and the paranoid style right-wing populists specialize in.

And as I make clear in the piece, the trajectory of Minutemen almost precisely traces that of previous right-wing populist movements -- particularly the money-grubbing aspects of it. The Minutemen, really, have been a right-wing moneymaking scam from the get-go, and this piece explores that.

There's a snippet of it available online for non-subscribers. And if you're a TAP subscriber you can read the whole thing.

The money grafs, as it were, examine the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps' fence-building project and where all that money went:

Certainly there was a significant gap between Simcox’s public claims of having raised $1.6 million for the fence, and what his financial disclosure forms show his organization actually spent on it. No one can say for sure because the MCDC won’t let anyone touch its books. But a look at the organization’s 2006 public filings indicates that, of all the money raised for the border fence, only a small amount (if any at all) went toward its construction. The forms for the Declaration Alliance—through whom all the border-fence donations were directed—show that it brought in nearly $5 million that year for all its programs. What percentage of that $5 million consisted of border-fence donations is unclear, but considering that the fence appeals began in May 2006 and have remained the MCDC’s (and Declaration Alliance’s) chief fundraising focus in the months since, it is likely that they provided at least a majority of that money. It also shows that $3.19 million went to the MCDC. But for what?

The Declaration Alliance largely spent the money on printing, consulting, and similar activities. The only indication on the form that any actual money went back to the MCDC in the field is $143,000 listed as “operational expenses,” though this
money reportedly was for MCDC border watches, not the fence project. If any of those millions of dollars actually went toward building a border fence, it’s difficult to ascertain where they are and how much was disbursed—though a look at the disclosure
form for the Minuteman Foundation, the MCDC entity set up specifically to handle the fence project, shows a mere $87,500 in total revenues from donations for 2006. If that’s the actual revenue coming from that $3.19 million the Declaration Alliance
says it spent on the MCDC—and you estimate that at least half of that is fence-related—then we’re talking about less than 6 percent coming back to build the fence.

In other words, the best rough estimate is that about 94 cents of every dollar Jim Campbell spent on the fence went toward printing, mailing, consulting, and the like. It’s no wonder members at the field level were seeing so little of the money that Simcox claimed to be rolling in.

Be sure to pick up a copy if you're not a subscriber. I'll make sure you all know when the full piece is finally available online.

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