Nonprofit Governance 101: nonprofit boards organize around a set of beliefs, values you might argue, that define what is the problem or challenge needing address; what is the intervention that might effectively address that challenge, and, what is or are the results that should be produced as a result of the chosen intervention. This set of beliefs: Theory of Change and the fundamental framing for mission and strategy. And yes, there are many nonprofits around the country who share similar Theories of Change and many who do not. I would pose that the "trick" to success for any one board's fully achieving their success is acquiring enough and effectively utilizing resources.
Can an individual or a corporation, politically left, right or centric, use one or more nonprofit boards to achieve their own Theory of Change? Absolutely! Individuals and companies are sanctioned through the tax rules, to utilize nonprofits as vehicles for pursuing their personal or corporate theories of change. So, the Washington Post did research and learned that Steven Bannon, well, you know who that is, has managed to sync his theory of change with that of a number of other nonprofits. But these were not one-way transactions. These boards took action to approve utilizing Mr. Bannon's strategies to achieve their respective goals. At this point we have only half the story. The other half: these boards.
Here's the excerpt:
A Washington Post examination found that Bannon was able to produce more than a dozen conservative documentaries over the past decade by drawing on a network of two dozen nonprofit organizations and private companies. Bannon helped arrange donations from wealthy Republicans to the nonprofits that paid him for films and other work, documents show. At the same time, Bannon and his firms took in at least $2 million from the nonprofits and an additional $5 million from the private companies, records show.
Bannon, who had already made millions on Wall Street, often was paid in multiple ways for each project — a common practice in Hollywood, where he had worked as an entertainment financier. Because he was paid through the nonprofit and private companies, which have limited obligations to disclose details about their activities, the total pay to Bannon remains unknown.
In a personal financial disclosure released by the White House last month, Bannon reported his net worth as between $11.8 million and $53.8 million.
Bannon, the White House and Schweizer did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Tax specialists told The Post that some of Bannon’s activities raise questions about compliance with Internal Revenue Service restrictions against using tax-exempt charities to attack a political candidate or for excessive personal financial benefit.
“The appearance is you have a tight-knit group of friends and political allies working together to provide benefits, to Mr. Bannon in particular,” said David Nelson, a specialist on nonprofit organizations and former tax partner at the Ernst & Young accounting firm, who reviewed records detailing the complex ties between Bannon and the nonprofit groups.
Misuse of the tax-exempt nonprofit system for financial and political benefit has become widespread, but such transgressions rarely result in meaningful penalties, according to the experts interviewed by The Post.
“It is being manipulated so badly,” said Paul Streckfus, a former tax lawyer at the IRS and editor of the EO Tax Journal. “It’s a joke.”
David Bossie, who heads two nonprofit groups that collaborated with Bannon on some of his films, praised him in an interview with The Post.
“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Steve Bannon and our products. We’re very proud of all our films,” said Bossie, president of the nonprofit Citizens United and its affiliate foundation. “The First Amendment is an amazing thing.”