Freedom Foundation

National SEIU behind anti-Freedom Foundation group

Since its founding in 1991, the Freedom Foundation has advocated for individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government. As part of its work, the organization has long sought to protect public employees from having to pay dues or fees to a government union against their will.

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory union payments for Medicaid-paid home care aides in 2014, the Freedom Foundation began assisting thousands of these caregivers in understanding and exercising their right to stop supporting the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The following year, a nonprofit organization called the “Northwest Accountability Project” (NAP) sprang into existence. Its sole purpose has been to personally attack and harass the Freedom Foundation’s officers, staff and supporters in the public arena, their places of business, and even in their own homes.

Despite its declared intention to “shine a light” on “out-of-state” “special interests” allegedly trying to influence Washington through the Freedom Foundation, NAP’s own operation is incredibly opaque.

Nevertheless, Freedom Foundation research has determined, using official government reports, that NAP is one of two nonprofit front groups funded almost exclusively by the national SEIU headquarters in Washington, D.C., that exist purely to attack and discredit SEIU opponents.

It is the height of irony — and, perhaps, projection — that NAP’s formation, structure and funding so closely resemble the kind of “shadowy,” “dark-money” “web” it claims, without justification, props up the Freedom Foundation.

Direct Union Funding for NAP

NAP’s annual revenue is generally several hundred thousand dollars, totaling $1.5 million from 2015-2018, according to the tax returns, known as 990 forms, it must file annually with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

NAP Revenue
Year Revenue Form
2015 $275,000 990 (2015)
2016 $410,000 990 (2016)
2017 $390,000 990 (2017)
2018 $380,400 990 (2018)
Total $1,455,400

While NAP need not disclose the sources of its funds on its own 990 forms, similar financial disclosures by other entities indicate most, if not all, of the organization’s funding comes from labor unions, particularly the national SEIU.

The Labor-Management Reporting Act requires all unions representing private-sector employees to file annual financial reports with the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) within the U.S. Department of Labor disclosing, among other things, all disbursements exceeding $5,000.

OLMS’ database of LM-2 reports indicates that labor unions in the Pacific Northwest and the American, Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) headquarters in Washington, D.C., have made at least 14 contributions totaling $340,000 directly to NAP since its creation.

According to the reports filed by the contributing unions, some of the contributions were sent to NAP’s Portland P.O. box, but others were sent to addresses in Washington, D.C.

Direct Union Contributions to the Northwest Accountability Project
Contributor Address associated with NAP Contribution Amount Contribution Date Form
AFSCME Council 75 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $50,000 4/15/2016 LM-2 (2016)
AFT Local 5905 926 W Sprague Avenue, Spokane, WA, 99201 $10,000 8/25/2016 LM-2 (2017)
AFT Local 8035 1037 NE 65th Street, Ste #331, Seattle, WA, 98115 $5,000 10/5/2016 LM-2 (2017)
UFCW Union 21 1037 NE 65th Street, Ste 3, Seattle, WA, 98115 $5,000 3/1/2017 LM-2 (2017)
AFSCME HQ 1725 I ST NW, Washington, D.C., 20006 $32,500 12/21/2017 LM-2 (2017)
UFCW Local 21 PO Box 42561, Portland, OR, 97242 $10,000 3/1/2018 LM-2 (2018)
UFCW Local 555 PO Box 42561, Portland, OR, 97242 $10,000 3/8/2018 LM-2 (2018)
AFSCME Council 28 PO Box 42561, Portland, OR, 97242 $32,500 7/13/2018 LM-2 (2019)
SEIU State Council 14 2010 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 20036 $50,000 11/19/2018 LM-2 (2018)
AFSCME Council 2 N/A $10,000 2018 990 (2018)
AFSCME Council 28 PO Box 42561, Portland, OR, 97242 $32,500 4/22/2019 LM-2 (2019)
UFCW Local 21 PO Box 42561, Portland, OR, 97242 $5,000 5/29/2019 LM-2 (2019)
Teamsters Local 117 2010 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 20036 $5,000 7/19/2019 LM-2 (2019)
AFSCME HQ 2010 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 20036 $32,500 11/1/2019 LM-2 (2019)
SEIU State Council 14 PO Box 42561, Portland, OR, 97242 $50,000 11/11/2019 LM-2 (2019)
Total $340,000
Source: LM-2 and 990 forms filed by the contributing unions with OLMS and the IRS, respectively.

While sufficient to prove organized labor’s backing of NAP, these contributions alone account for only about one-quarter of the $1.5 million in total revenue NAP reported to the IRS from 2015-2018. Clearly, NAP has other benefactors.

The Accountability Project

LM-2 reports filed with OLMS by the SEIU headquarters in Washington, D.C., reflect 15 contributions totaling $3.45 million to an entity called “The Accountability Project” (TAP) from 2015-2019.

Further, the 2017 tax return filed with the IRS by the Washington Education Association (WEA) shows it contributed $55,000 to TAP.[1]

Direct Union Contributions to The Accountability Project
Contributor Recipient address Contribution Amount Contribution Date Form
SEIU HQ 888 16th St. NW, Ste 650, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 7/17/2015 LM-2 (2015)
SEIU HQ 888 16th St. NW, Ste 650, Washington, D.C., 20006 $150,000 10/1/2015 LM-2 (2015)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $150,000 1/15/2016 LM-2 (2016)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $150,000 3/10/2016 LM-2 (2016)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 6/16/2016 LM-2 (2016)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 8/25/2016 LM-2 (2016)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 12/29/2016 LM-2 (2016)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 3/30/2017 LM-2 (2017)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 6/13/2017 LM-2 (2017)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 10/26/2017 LM-2 (2017)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 12/20/2017 LM-2 (2017)
SEIU HQ 2010 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 20036 $250,000 3/29/2018 LM-2 (2018)
SEIU HQ 2010 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 20036 $250,000 7/11/2018 LM-2 (2018)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 2/14/2019 LM-2 (2019)
SEIU HQ 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $250,000 9/19/2019 LM-2 (2019)
WEA 1725 I ST NW #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 $55,000 2017-2018 990 (2018)
Total $3,505,000
Source: LM-2 forms filed by SEIU with OLMS and a 990 form filed by WEA with the IRS

Two of the addresses associated with TAP on SEIU’s LM-2 reports and on WEA’s 990 form were also associated with NAP on other unions’ LM-2 forms.[2]

To call TAP opaque would be an understatement, as it has no fixed office, no staff and no digital presence to speak of — not even a Twitter account. Further, the office addresses given for The Accountability Project by SEIU on its LM-2 forms are associated with multiple different entities, none publicly identifying as “The Accountability Project.”

While LM-2 forms do not require the filing union to include the employer identification number (EIN) of every entity to which it makes a disbursement, annual 990 forms filed by nonprofit organizations with the IRS do require the filing entity to list the EIN of organizations to which it has contributed funds. Conveniently, the EIN the WEA provided for TAP on its 2018 990 form was incorrect, as it turns out, by one digit.[3]

Nevertheless, the Freedom Foundation successfully located TAP’s annual tax returns. Its 990 forms indicate TAP is simply a shell entity administered by professional political operatives to obscure the flow of funds from the national SEIU to NAP.

These documents show TAP, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, was formed in July 2015, just a few months before NAP. It described its mission to the IRS as, “Educating the public on issues that enhance the well-being of middleclass families and workers.”

The only three officers/staff associated with TAP since its creation are president Will Robinson, director/secretary Rodell Mollineau, and director/treasurer Steve Rosenthal.

In his day job, Robinson is founding partner at The New Media Firm, a liberal, Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm. A longtime Democratic campaign consultant, Robinson was named Democratic Strategist of the Year by the American Association of Political Consultants in 2012.

Similarly, Mollineau is a partner at ROKK Solutions, another Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm. According to his biography, Mollineau formerly served as a “top aide” to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and was the first president of American Bridge 21st Century, a Democrat super-PAC focusing on opposition research.

TAP’s tax returns indicate Mollineau works 20 hours per week, highly unlikely given his presumably full-time position with ROKK Solutions and the organization’s role as merely a pass-through for SEIU funds. Nevertheless, he is TAP’s only paid officer, receiving $85,000 in 2016, $60,000 in 2017 and $86,000 in 2018.

Lastly, as president of The Organizing Group, Rosenthal runs another liberal political consultancy in Washington, D.C. His biography indicates Rosenthal has worked on Democratic political campaigns for decades and previously worked for the AFL-CIO, as political director, and the Communications Workers of America.

Further, another employee at The Organizing Group — chief operating officer Jenna Fullmer — appears to have ties to TAP. In addition to her position at The Organizing Project, Fullmer is the president of Blue Compass Strategies, a “female-owned, Washington, DC-based political and opposition research consulting firm” serving “the progressive community.”[4]

According to her biography on Blue Compass Strategy’s website, Fullmer,

“…currently serves as the Executive Director of The Accountability Project, an organization that holds right-wing individuals, organizations, and foundations accountable for attacks on the progressive movement in targeted states.”

Her biography also indicates Fullmer has “…worked closely with progressive organizations and labor unions such as the UAW, NEA, AFT, and SEIU…”

Oddly, TAP’s tax returns make no mention of Fullmer and reflect no payments to her.

Most importantly, however, TAP’s 990 forms show its only purpose is to serve as a pass-through for funds from the national SEIU.

All told, TAP reported total revenue of $3.3 million from 2015-2018. The national SEIU and WEA reported contributing $2,950,000 and $55,000, respectively, to TAP during this same period, leaving $259,000 (8 percent) unaccounted for.[5]

TAP Revenue
Year Revenue Report
2015 $500,000 990 (2015)
2016 $1,150,000 990 (2016)
2017 $1,025,000 990 (2017)
2018 $589,000 990 (2018)
Total $3,264,000

However, it’s possible the remaining funds also came from SEIU through an intermediary. For instance, its LM-2 reports indicate SEIU made $1.3 million in payments to The Organizing Group from 2015-2018, in addition to its payments to TAP. Further, TAP’s tax returns disclose that it paid The Organizing Group $90,000 in 2015, $254,500 in 2016, $216,000 in 2017, and $173,000 in 2018 for things like “strategic services” and “payments to other consultants.”

With that much money changing hands between SEIU, TAP and The Organizing Group, it’s not out of the question the undocumented $259,000 in TAP funding came from SEIU through The Organizing Group.

Other than lining the pockets of liberal political consultants, TAP’s only function is to funnel SEIU’s money to two front groups, NAP in Portland and a group called “Pennsylvania Spotlight” (PS) in Philadelphia. All told, TAP contributed $1.2 million to NAP and $680,000 to PS from 2015-2018.

The Accountability Project Contributions
Recipient Recipient address Contribution Amount Form
Northwest Accountability Project 522 W Riverside Ave #560, Spokane, WA 99212 $275,000 990 (2015)
Northwest Accountability Project PO Box 42561, Portland, OR 97242 $335,000 990 (2016)
Northwest Accountability Project PO Box 42561, Portland, OR 97242 $370,000 990 (2017)
Northwest Accountability Project PO Box 42561, Portland, OR 97242 $180,000 990 (2018)
Pennsylvania Spotlight PO Box 54582, Philadelphia, PA 19148 $235,000 990 (2016)
Pennsylvania Spotlight PO Box 54582, Philadelphia, PA 19148 $250,000 990 (2017)
Pennsylvania Spotlight PO Box 54582, Philadelphia, PA 19148 $195,000 990 (2018)
Total $1,840,000
Source: 990 forms The Accountability Project with the IRS

These records indicate TAP provided all the funding NAP received in 2015, its first year of existence. Overall, direct union contributions ($215,000) and indirect union contributions through TAP ($1,160,000) made up 94 percent of NAP’s $1,455,400 in total revenue from 2015-2018. The source of the remaining 6 percent is unknown but may also have come from labor unions or aligned organizations.

For its part, tax records show that TAP provided PS with 100 percent of its revenue in 2016 and 2017, and 58 percent of the $335,000 it collected in 2018.

PS Revenue
Year Revenue Form
2016 $235,000 990 (2016)
2017 $250,000 990 (2017)
2018 $335,000 990 (2018)
Total $820,000

Union LM-2 reports indicate the remaining $140,000 received by PS in 2018 consisted of direct contributions from labor unions, including $50,000 from SEIU Local 32, $40,000 from the Pennsylvania State Teachers Association, $30,000 from the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council, and $20,000 from SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.

Comparing the Northwest Accountability Project and Pennsylvania Spotlight

Shared funding sources aside, NAP and PS are structured nearly identically. Both are 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations. Both were formed in the months after TAP’s creation in July 2015; NAP was formed in October 2015 and PS in June 2016. Both are staffed by a single employee/director, with possible occasional help from volunteers or interns, and lack a physical office.

NAP’s director, Peter Starzynski, was paid $108,000 in 2018 while PS’s director, Eric Rosso, was paid $93,000, according to their respective organizations’ tax returns. Both Starzynski and Rosso previously worked for SEIU affiliates.[6]

Neither organization releases content of any substance, such as policy research or analysis. Instead, both exist for the sole purpose of attacking and discrediting SEIU opponents. While NAP primarily targets the Olympia, Wash.-based Freedom Foundation, PS chiefly directs its fire at the Harrisburg, Penn.-based Commonwealth Foundation, though it has taken to attacking the Freedom Foundation as well since it launched a Pennsylvania operation in January 2020.

Even the content of the organizations’ respective websites is nearly identical. For instance, compare the first sentence of the “About Us” page on the two organizations’ websites:

  • NAP: “The Northwest Accountability Project is a social welfare organization dedicated to educating the public on the issues that enhance the well-being of working people…”
  • PS: “Pennsylvania Spotlight is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization dedicated to educating the public on issues that enhance the well-being of middle-class families and workers…”

And the similarities don’t end there. Both of the pages claim the organization’s goal is to “shine a light” on and “expose” the “extreme,” “divisive,” “radical,” and “right-wing” “network” of “out-of-state billionaires” and “deep-pocketed” “special interests” that oppose “LGBTQ” rights, the “middle class,” “public education,” and “our environment.”

Similarly, the spurious claims leveled against the Freedom Foundation by NAP are nearly identical to those made by PS against the Commonwealth Foundation, and both are found on web pages labeled, “Get the Facts”:

  • NAP claims the Freedom Foundation is “against LGBT rights,” “against protecting the environment,” “undermining the middle class,” “against increasing education funding,” and has “ties to white supremacists.”
  • PS claims the Commonwealth Foundation is “anti-LGBTQ,” “against the environment,” “anti-worker,” “against public education,” and has “ties to white supremacists.”

None of these claims withstand scrutiny, and the cookie-cutter nature of the allegations only underscores their emptiness.

Most striking, however, is the blatant hypocrisy of both NAP and PS. They claim to care about “shining a light” on “out-of-state” “special interests” with “deep pockets” by attacking organizations that have existed in their home states for decades and employ teams of people physically located in-state who work on policy research and advocacy. But neither NAP nor PS disclose that they themselves are funded almost entirely by a single, out-of-state special interest via a “shadowy” “network” of professional political operatives designed to obscure SEIU’s involvement.

And, as for whose pockets are deepest, there’s simply no contest. The Freedom Foundation and Commonwealth Foundation combined bring in annual revenue of around $10 million. The budget of merely the SEIU’s national headquarters — not counting its local affiliates, much less other unions — was $404 million in 2019.

The Freedom Foundation is quite clear about its priorities. For nearly 30 years, it has worked to promote and defend individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government. In recent years, it has primarily advanced this mission through efforts to reform government unions and protect public employees’ rights to make their own decisions about union involvement. It is willing to discuss and defend these views and positions with any serious person or organization.

What’s more, the Freedom Foundation will continue to fight for these principles and policies even if “moneyed,” “out-of-state” “special interests” like SEIU don’t like it. If anything, the fact that unions like SEIU are willing to spend millions of dollars on front groups trying to silence us confirms the significance of the Foundation’s work.

Footnotes:

[1] The Washington Education Association does not file LM-2 reports with OLMS.
[2] Namely, 1725 I St. NW, #900, Washington, D.C., 20006 and 2010 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 20036.
[3] WEA indicated The Accountability Project’s EIN was 32-0470291. It’s actual EIN is 32-0470290.
[4] Blue Compass Strategies also claims Steve Rosenthal as a “strategic advisor.”
[5] In 2016, all of TAP’s funding came from the national SEIU.
[6] According to his biography for Justice at Stake, where he previously worked as “senior organizer,” Starzynski “…served in various roles for organizations such as SEIU International…” A post on PS’s website announcing Rosso’s hiring states, “…Rosso served as a Political Organizer with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)… Previously, Rosso served as the Deputy State Director for Pennsylvania Working Families. Rosso also worked for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and served as Ohio Field Director in 2012, overseeing the largest independent political program in the state.”