Exclusive: Progressive Activist Donates to Democrats While Not Paying Federal Taxes
A prominent liberal activist donated thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, while failing to pay federal income taxes, according to documents obtained by Media Trackers. Karl Frisch, of Fairfax, Virginia, is Executive Director of Allied Progress, which bills itself as a “nationwide progressive advocacy organization that uses hard-hitting research and creative campaigns to stand up to Wall Street and powerful special interests and hold their allies in Congress and the White House accountable.” Federal Election Commission records indicate that Frisch donated several hundred dollars to Clinton’s presidential campaign during the 2016 election cycle. Records also indicate he contributed thousands of dollars to other Democratic candidates from 2013 to 2016
At about the same time, Media Trackers has learned, Frisch was served with a Federal Tax Lien notice (document below). The lien against Frisch’s property was for the following amounts and tax years:
Kind of Tax Tax Period Ending Unpaid Balance of assessment
1040 12/31/11 1,893.69
1040 12/31/12 6,624.69
1040 12/31/13 9,725.28
1040 12/31/14 41,302.42
Meanwhile, Frisch’s group has been busy dishing snark on Twitter about those it feels evade paying their fair share of taxes:
— Allied Progress (@AlliedProgress) January 19, 2017
And Frisch hasn’t been shy about taking to Twitter to discuss other people’s taxes:
Don’t Vote #DonaldTrump Reason 31/275:
Refused to release his tax returns during the campaign.
— Karl Frisch (@KarlFrisch) November 7, 2016
Don’t Vote #DonaldTrump Reason 242/275:
Admits he paid no income tax for nearly 2 decades. No money for schools. Infrastructure. Military.
— Karl Frisch (@KarlFrisch) November 8, 2016
Frisch, who Wikipedia describes as “a syndicated columnist and Democratic strategist” worked for Republican candidates before switching parties after the 2000 primaries. From his biography at Allied Progress :
Over nearly two decades, Karl Frisch has earned a national reputation as a creative and effective strategist known for his skilled development and execution of both issue advocacy and electoral communications campaigns. His uniquely witty and incisive political commentary is regularly featured on talk radio, cable news, and in newspapers around the country.
Karl landed his first political job during his freshman year of college working first for Republicans at the local level and later the national stage. But after working on John McCain’s unsuccessful presidential bid in 2000 he came out of two closets at once: as a gay man and as a progressive.
Since then Karl has worked for a host of Democratic candidates, party committees, and progressive advocacy organizations on the local, state, and national levels. He has helped elect mayors, state legislators, members of congress, governors, and senators. He has crafted communications strategy for Democratic leaders in Congress and national organizations like Media Matters for America, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Meanwhile, the group Frisch heads, Allied Progress, has itself come under scrutiny for its role in liberal dark money hypocrisy. Allied Progress has played a key role in contesting some of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. As the Washington Free Beacon reported in February:
Allied Progress claimed credit on Wednesday for Andy Puzder’s withdrawal as Trump’s nominee for labor secretary. It has also battled Trump nominees to lead the Department of Commerce and the Treasury.
The group’s “Trump Transparency Project” is “dedicated to holding President-elect Donald Trump’s transition and eventual administration accountable for its economic appointments and policies that betray hardworking Americans,” its website says.
Allied Progress’s advocacy arm ran television ads explicitly opposing Puzder and Steve Mnuchin, who was confirmed last week to lead Treasury. It also released opposition research dossiers, organized Senate letter-writing campaigns, and launched websites to house its grassroots lobbying.
According to the Free Beacon, the resources that Allied Progress and its advocacy arm devoted to their anti-Trump efforts, as well as the sources of that money, are virtually unknowable as the result of an arrangement with two left-wing groups that, in effect, hide their finances from the public view:
Allied Progress is not technically a standalone organization. It is organized under the auspices of the New Venture Fund, a left-wing “fiscal sponsor” that handles legal compliance and logistics for Allied Progress and more than 100 other groups organized as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charities.
Allied Progress Action, the advocacy arm that has been running television ads opposing Trump nominees, is part of a similar organization, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, that houses 501(c)(4) “social welfare” advocacy groups.
Neither Allied Progress nor its Action arm are required to disclose their donors. Mike Czin, an Allied Progress spokesman with the public relations firm SKDKnickerbocker, would not say who its financial supporters are..
None of that is unusual for a political advocacy group. But according to the Free Beacon’s reporting, there is something unusual about Allied Progress’ relationship with its fiscal sponsors that adds “an additional layer of opacity to its finances:”
Generally donors to nonprofit groups can be ascertained from financial filings by the groups that donate to them. Charitable foundations and labor unions, for instance, are required to disclose grants and contributions to groups such as Allied Progress.
However, because the group is not a stand-alone organization but a “project of the New Venture Fund,” as its website notes, its donors can simply list the fiscal sponsor—NVF or Sixteen Thirty, as the case may be—rather than Allied Progress itself on their respective disclosures.
The arrangement makes it difficult to trace the donors financing Allied Progress’ anti-Trump advocacy.
It would appear that the finances of both Allied Progress and its executive director have been murky in recent years. When contacted by Media Trackers, Frisch responded:
“This issue is a matter of public record that is being amicably resolved. If only those interested in my taxes showed as much concern about the taxes of President Trump,”
You can view the IRS notice of lien here: Karl Frisch Tax Lien (2)