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Exclusive: New Financials for Pro-Trump Student Group Turning Point USA

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.

Dem Moneyman’s Business Pitch: Strip Clubs and Payday Lenders Welcome

New Federal Election Commission filings show a series of huge contributions to Democratic political groups in May from a company called Allied Wallet. It’s not a household name, but the company and its owner have become major financial players on the Democratic side years after being targeted by the Justice Department for involvement in illegal overseas gambling operations. It’s since branched off businesses on the right side of the law, but potentially problematic politically.

A since-removed page on the website of the California-based digital-payment processor billed its availability for “high risk” businesses such as payday lenders, strip clubs, and multilevel marketing operations. “We support these business types and more,” the page declared.

These days, the company has turned up its focus on politics. During the 2016 cycle, Allied Wallet’s owner, Andy Khawaja, bundled more than $3 million for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, earning him a sit-down with the candidate. Allied Wallet chipped in more than half a million for the Democratic Convention’s host committee.

Khawaja has kept up the giving this cycle. In May, according to new FEC filings, his company gave $250,000 to Duty and Country, a super PAC backing West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s re-election bid, and $250,000 to House Majority PAC, Democrats’ leading independent political group seeking control of the lower chamber. Khawaja also donated to the campaigns of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Jacky Rosen, who’s running for Senate in Nevada.

Those donations brought the total federal political contributions by Khawaja and his company this cycle to more than $2.5 million. The vast majority has gone to Democrats, though Khawaja also personally donated $125,000 to the Republican National Committee in April 2017, and $100,000 to Florida Republican Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign in April 2018.

Those are huge numbers, making Khawaja’s line of work and history with the law of particular note. In 2010, Allied Wallet agreed to forfeit more than $13 million over allegations that it profited from illegal online gambling operations.

Khawaja and his company have also given a collective $1 million this cycle to Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC looking to retake the Senate majority and make Chuck Schumer the chamber’s majority leader. On Tuesday, Schumer announced that he had appointed Khawaja to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

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Controversial Saudi Group’s New Man in D.C.

The Muslim World League, a huge Saudi government-funded charity, has signed a new representative in Washington. The Saudi-American Public Relations Affairs Committee notified the Department of Justice this week that it is doing U.S.-based PR work for the group under a $35,000 retainer agreement inked in April. SAPRAC previously signed a Bahraini-funded client that engaged in a social-media and TV ad campaign attacking the government of Qatar as part of that country’s dispute with some of its Gulf neighbors. That campaign included ads aired during the U.S. Open golf tournament, a strategy explicitly designed to ensure that President Donald Trump would see them.

Despite SAPRAC’s name, it didn’t publicly count the Saudi Arabian government as a client until this most recent contract was signed. According to its initial foreign-agent filing, SAPRAC arranged a meeting between the Muslim World League and former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, now the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The Muslim World League has a controversial history. It has promoted the fundamentalist Wahhabist wing of Islam through affiliate organizations in countries around the world, including the U.S. It has also faced allegations—which it vehemently denies—of ties to international terrorism. From 2006 to 2016, the Filipino and Indonesian arms of the International Islamic Relief Organization, which was founded by the MWL, were designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as al Qaeda financiers.

SAPRAC’s work for the group appears to be part of an effort to move past that checkered history—and to advance a terrorism designation list of its own. Its DOJ filing says SAPRAC will work to “uphold U.S. policy goals of promoting religious tolerance and counter-extremism efforts.”

White-Nationalist House Candidate Keeps Personal Finances Secret

White-Nationalist House Candidate Keeps Personal Finances Secret

Paul Nehlen has run a radioactive campaign for Wisconsin’s First Congressional District on a platform of explicit white nationalism. He rails on “The Swamp” as much as the next vehemently pro-Trump political aspirant, but voters in his district, currently represented by Speaker Paul Ryan, have so far been deprived of legally required information about Nehlen’s personal finances.

He claims to be a highly successful businessman, but Nehlen has failed to file personal financial-disclosure forms for both 2017 and 2018 that would provide insight into his ostensible business acumen. Nehlen got an extension last year giving him until Oct. 15 to file the legally required disclosures, but the House Ethics Committee has no record of a subsequent filing. This year’s was due on May 15, but the committee has no record of a disclosure filing or an extension.

A spokesperson for the commission declined to comment. Late filings subject candidates and members of Congress to a paltry $200 fine, but willful failures to disclose personal financial information can be more serious. “Knowingly and wilfully” failing to file personal financial-disclosure information can carry civil and criminal penalties, including a fine of nearly $60,000 and a prison sentence of up to one year.

Nehlen didn’t respond to questions about his apparent failure to file those disclosures.

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Sneak Peek: Exclusive ‘Dark Money’ Film Clip

The folks at Big Sky Film Productions have offered PAY DIRT readers an exclusive look at their new documentary film Dark Money, which explores campaign finance and the influence of big-money donors on the political process. Click here for a sneak peek of the film’s interview with Montana State Senate President Jim Peterson.