Patterico's Pontifications

10/13/2010

Looking at the Velvet Revolution and Justice Through Music Books

Filed under: Brad Friedman,Brett Kimberlin,General,Velvet Revolution — Patterico @ 6:48 am

Chuck S. by e-mail (together with Dianna and Dustin in comments) found Velvet Revolution’s tax returns from 2006, 2007, and 2008. We also have tax returns from Justice Through Music from 2003, 2005 (with Schedule A), 2006, 2007, and 2008. All are .pdfs.

Feel free to look through them yourself and see what you find interesting. Notable aspects of the returns include large payments to unnamed independent contractors (Velvet Revolution) and unexplained large increases in rent (Justice Through Music).

Keep in mind that as a drug dealer, Kimberlin was used to fashioning his tax returns to forestall suspicion from the federal government. As Mark Singer reported in an October 1992 article in the New Yorker (subscription required):

To avoid the scrutiny of the tax authorities Kimberlin figured out how much he had spent in a given year, extrapolated the income that would be required to support such a life, added ten per cent, and filed a short-form tax return, taking the standard deduction. The tax code did not specifically require him to list his occupation, so he left that space blank. The only money he ever put in the bank was the money he used to pay taxes. He wrote only two checks a year — one to the Internal Revenue Service and the other to the Indiana Department of Revenue.

Consider this an open source project. Take a look and tell me what you see.

P.S. While looking at Velvet Revolution’s original articles of incorporation, reader Chuck S. found that one of the original Velvet Revolution directors, Ben Gelt, was arrested for drug trafficking in 2002. (The charge was later pled down to possession of marijuana.) Full details at this page. It appears that another director was Jeff Cohen, the founder of FAIR who used to appear on Fox News Watch. [UPDATE: Wrong. That Jeff Cohen e-mails to say it's not him. I am sorry for the mistake.]

29 Comments

  1. I’ve laid my observations out at:

    http://northshorejournal.org/looking-at-the-left-though-an-accountants-eyes

    As not for profits go, these are fairly typical small organizations. Some of the questions I raise would apply to many other small NFP’s. One of the most common mistakes made is the attempt to find a way to compensate a key individual without paying them.

    Comment by Chuck Simmins (ec5e5d) — 10/13/2010 @ 7:11 am

  2. Wow, Jeff Cohen…a true lefty.

    Or maybe a fake lefty and someone with something to hide.

    Comment by Rev Dr E Buzz (1eb242) — 10/13/2010 @ 7:20 am

  3. hey, the entire blogosphere is open source. which is what i love about it.

    Comment by Aaron Worthing (e7d72e) — 10/13/2010 @ 7:37 am

  4. Patterico, check this out.

    http://overlawyered.com/2010/10/a-blogger-gets-a-threat-letter/

    and you’re welcome. ;-) Yeah, that was totally me.

    Comment by Aaron Worthing (e7d72e) — 10/13/2010 @ 8:17 am

  5. Brad Freidman is closely involved with these criminals.

    Comment by JD (1d20c1) — 10/13/2010 @ 8:47 am

  6. The Big Journalism article mentioned a 1.3 million dollar grant. Does that amount show up in these records? I’m also curious how much BradBlog has taken in. Are paypal and regular mail donations being fully documented? Brad’s also got a lot of advertising on his blog and does get quite a number of other paid gigs based on his image. How can Brad be whining that his coffers are empty and he may have to quit blogging? As a co-founder of VR with Brett, they don’t have enough on hand to pay Brad a modest yearly salary? Like others, I believe there is much more to this story. If you take away the whistleblower schtick Brett devised, no one would have ever heard of Brad Friedman. If Brad Friedman is broke, then does that mean VR is also on the verge of shutting down? I think if they do, it won’t be because of lack of money.

    Comment by Prepostericity (fa8b13) — 10/13/2010 @ 10:03 am

  7. Bradblog put all of my comments into moderation for having the temerity to question him about this relationship. Coward.

    Comment by JD (1d20c1) — 10/13/2010 @ 12:38 pm

  8. Brad Freidman is closely involved with these criminals.

    Comment by JD

    Indeed, he’s the director listed on some of these tax forms. And yet when make any comment even naming the organization he directs, even when it’s completely on-topic, instant deletion.

    That looks a lot like consciousness of guilt. No matter what it looks like, it’s a great Orwellian way of preventing discussion.

    Comment by Dustin (b54cdc) — 10/13/2010 @ 12:43 pm

  9. Or, he is a dishonest POS that enjoys hanging out with convicted felons that bomb people, smuggle drugs, and get convicted of perjury in high school, but cannot be proven to have killed anyone, no way no how, just like Ayres. Freidman and Kimberlin should be shunned from polite society, but the left f@cking embraces them.

    Comment by JD (1d20c1) — 10/13/2010 @ 12:46 pm

  10. I am sticking with lying coward, until evidence surfaces to prove otherwise. These are the people crissyhooten brown-noses.

    Comment by JD (1d20c1) — 10/13/2010 @ 12:58 pm

  11. the left f@cking embraces them

    For some dumb reason, I feel like pretending this isn’t a partisan issue. But can anyone show me an example that proves JD wrong? Brett’s organization is given great money and respect… is there anything like that on the right with someone similar to Brett?

    Anyone who promotes someone like Brett is a really screwed up individual. There are violent conservatives out there, but that’s so far beyond tolerable fringe, as best as I can tell.

    Comment by Dustin (b54cdc) — 10/13/2010 @ 1:03 pm

  12. It used to be that in movies and books and things of that nature, the lefty charlatan was a stereotype…but now it’s racist to use it, or it’s bigoted or something like that.

    Bill Ayers was a close friend to our current President, who went to church that was lead by an insane flaming racist.

    So it’s not surprising, I guess, that we must not recognize the thieves and thugs in our midst. Works is needed to be done combating evil racist Republicans.

    That is some really sick stuff.

    Comment by Rev Dr E Buzz (1eb242) — 10/13/2010 @ 2:02 pm

  13. The info at the link re Ben Gelt’s prior drug conviction isn’t quite accurate. I can’t get the link to open regarding the info posted in the second long quote, so I’m not sure what the original source material said, but there is no “misdemeanor drug trafficking” charge under federal law. All federal drug “trafficking” charges — “possession with the intent to distribute” are felonies, where mere drug “possession” is a misdemeanor. The “intent to distribute” is usually established by quantity (not personal use) and prior instances of trafficking behavior or other indicia of trafficking (large sums of cash, packaging materials, etc).

    With respect to marijuana, the statute provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years (max of life) where more than 1000 kilograms of marijuana is involved; a mandatory minimum term of 5 years (max of 40) where more than 100 kilograms is involved; and no man min, but up to 5 years where less than 100 kilograms is involved.

    What looks like happened here is that he was allowed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge of mere “possession”, and avoid the felony “possession with intent to distribute”. This is generally a matter of prosecutorial discretion when first-time offenders are involved, but can sometimes turn on the quality of evidence supporting the felony charge.

    Comment by shipwreckedcrew (dd1bdb) — 10/13/2010 @ 3:12 pm

  14. One major comment: I just read through the 2008 “Justice Through Music Project” 990.

    The expenses shown, $475,768, should raise eyebrows. Look at page two, and you’ll need to permanently attach your eyebrows to your hairline. And the request for an extension is ridiculous.

    Further, there ought to have been some detail of what the grants and contributions were, and who from. Heaven knows, the funding side has to list all sources of income, and all contributions made.

    Comment by Dianna (5f6ad4) — 10/13/2010 @ 3:27 pm

  15. Aaaargh.

    “Velvet Revolution” is a term which already had a well-defined meaning: it was the (almost entirely) peaceful revolution which brought down the Czechoslovak regime in 1989.

    This overloading is obnoxious.

    Comment by aphrael (e0cdc9) — 10/13/2010 @ 3:44 pm

  16. NO JUSTICE NO PEACE

    Comment by daleyrocks (940075) — 10/13/2010 @ 3:48 pm

  17. Aphrael – They took the name from the European events.

    Comment by daleyrocks (940075) — 10/13/2010 @ 3:49 pm

  18. aphrael, overloading … in programming language semantics does not really apply here. I think a better term is “stealing”.

    Comment by SPQR (26be8b) — 10/13/2010 @ 3:51 pm

  19. It seems like overloading to me, too. Just piling on more and more completely unjustified drama.

    If you don’t agree to donate, you’re not a patriot.

    Indeed, if you bring up the scandal, your patriotism may be questioned (and I’m not exaggerating in this case).

    Comment by Dustin (b54cdc) — 10/13/2010 @ 3:56 pm

  20. I don’t see a whole lot here. These are the “EZ” forms which are very brief. From the instructions it looks like the regular form, requiring greater disclosure, only applies if revenue is over $1 million.

    The biggest expense item seems to be printing-related costs. I’m not sure what they put out, but if its direct mail and that kind of stuff then I’m not sure there’s much of an issue here.

    Comment by shipwreckedcrew (dd1bdb) — 10/13/2010 @ 4:01 pm

  21. SWC, their biggest expense item seems to be an independent contractor (or more than one).

    And not all the 990s are the 990ez.

    Comment by Dustin (b54cdc) — 10/13/2010 @ 4:42 pm

  22. JTM claims to have produced DVD’s. That is what I’m assuming the printing costs to be. Remember, no matter what you call it, it has to fit into an IRS box.

    Comment by Chuck Simmins (ec5e5d) — 10/13/2010 @ 4:44 pm

  23. Dustin — the 990EZ is a recent creation. Prior to 2007 there was a minimum threshold level of revenue, and if your NP didn’t exceed that level, no tax return was required. The only return that existed was the 990. Starting in 2007, all NPs have to file tax returns, and those with revenue less than $1 million can file the EZ version.

    I didn’t look at every one of them — I started with the Justice Through Music 2008 form, and that’s wheret he printing cost is the single biggest item. I looked at a couple others, and printing costs were significant there to.

    Comment by shipwreckedcrew (dd1bdb) — 10/13/2010 @ 5:22 pm

  24. I find the expenses highly suspicious. (No surprise, I find the whole thing suspicious.) I used to work as an account analyst trawling through company accounts, writing reports for credit ref. agencies – UK, not USA.

    There are obvious faults to this, but…..simply go and see if you can find output and undertakings by JTM that would reasonably justify such expenses?

    I don’t believe it – not for a second. I can’t see any product or substantive activity.

    For example, their campaign ‘Stop Domestic Terrorism’ appears to consist of a webpage at an existing (VR) domain (cost $10), a letter to the attorney general (cost $1) and 2 posts (in a year) on their facebook campaign page (cost $0). This seems to be their general method – all their domains are hosted as sub-domains of VR’s website. Cheap.

    I mean, come on? We’re not talking about a Saint here, rather someone who is a domestic terrorist prepared to front a “stop domestic terror”…..a convicted bomber whom claims to have been jailed for ‘political reasons’.

    Everything suggests this is all a vehicle for Kimberlin’s personal self-enrichment – there is nothing that definitely suggests otherwise.

    Running a charity wherein the expenses account for all the donations/revenue is a pretty obvious scam. Who would ever find out? Who would ever care? And if it all goes as ‘expenses’ (including hotels, food, transport, rent etc) then really it’s director’s emoluments, *not* expenses.

    I intend writing to whatever organisation/s is/are responsible for charities in the USA to voice my concerns. I suggest others do so. Does anyone know what the relevant organisation to contact would be? The IRS might be a place to start?

    ——-

    As for the notion that Brad and Brett are exemplars of left-failures, well….Socrates pursued this story long before Breitbart and Socrates is a leftie. So am I. It’s therefore wholly unfair to treat this affair as indictment of leftism generally. B&B aren’t even really leftwing – they’re more liberal libertarian than socialist. That much is obvious?

    Comment by the_last_name_left (4d45ec) — 10/15/2010 @ 9:33 am

  25. It’s therefore wholly unfair to treat this affair as indictment of leftism generally

    You’re right. There clearly are lefties who care a great deal about shunning some of these characters.

    I don’t want this to be a left vs right thing. But it’s important that lefties want to make clear these kinds of people are unacceptable. Just as it’s important for Tea Partiers or Republicans to (and I believe they generally do show that).

    and your analysis is very good, IMO.

    Comment by Dustin (b54cdc) — 10/15/2010 @ 9:40 am

  26. I didn’t look at every one of them — I started with the Justice Through Music 2008 form, and that’s wheret he printing cost is the single biggest item. I looked at a couple others, and printing costs were significant there to.

    Comment by shipwreckedcrew

    Thanks for letting me know about the EZ form being recent. Now that I’m suspicious, I see a lot of these things as efforts to conceal as much info as possible, and was wondering why they didn’t use the EZ form every single year. You’ve helped answer that question. I do not believe they should feel entitled to hide as much information as possible.

    You are right that they spend a lot on publications. However, Velvet Revolution’s largest expense is always this unitemized and undefined ‘contractor’. As I said, I think these organizations should be specific as to who they are paying. It’s even more necessary when your organization is at the house of a convicted felon who has experience lying on tax forms and conning people.

    Comment by Dustin (b54cdc) — 10/15/2010 @ 9:43 am

  27. The address given on the returns looks like millionaire’s row :

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&biw=1024&bih=553&q=9100%20beech%20tree%20road%20maryland&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl#

    How do you live there on $20k a year?

    Comment by the_last_name_left (4d45ec) — 10/15/2010 @ 9:44 am

  28. whoops – bad link.

    correct link here

    Comment by the_last_name_left (4d45ec) — 10/15/2010 @ 9:45 am

  29. This is perhaps pointless, as there simply isn’t enough detail given, however it’s interesting to note:

    From 2007 return:

    Salary/benefits: $40,000 (ish)
    Legal Fees: $16,026
    Supplies: $34,627
    Telephone: $11,702
    Occupancy $23,651
    Travel: $19,349
    Printing: $125,000

    From 2008 return (slightly different format):

    Salary and benefits: $52,000
    Professional fees/contractors: $80,000 (quadrupled)
    Occupancy/Rent: $80,000 (quadrupled)
    Printing, distribution: £180,000
    Education, travel, telephone: $50,000 (doubled)
    ————

    Maybe these really are legitimate expenses, but it isn’t hard to imagine how they might not be. Occupancy, rent, travel, telephone and salary (presumably all used by Brett Kimberlin) amount to a cool $260k in 2 years. Not bad for a bit of ‘leftie activism’ 40 hrs a week. “Teaching people about good government”……right.

    Even if ‘legitimate’ I find it hard to believe donors were contributing so that Brett could spend $80,000 on rent (in a year!), $80k on travel and telephone in 2 years, $70k on salary in 2 years etc.

    Likewise that JTMP should donate $50k to VR in 07 and paid $1000 pa for their web-server……

    [If anyone knows why VR's server costs $1000 a year, do tell? It seems to have zero interactivity requiring anything more than the simplest PHP form returns. It should be $100-$200 pa imo and $1k looks grossly inflated figure.]

    so……in 2007, on revenue of $250k JTMP undertook their major activity (printing and publishing) to the extent of $120k costs.

    But in 2008, on doubled revenue of $560k JTMP again undertook printing and publishing to the extent of $180k costs.

    Thus, we can see in 2008 JTMP expenses were $250,000 higher than 2007 – despite the expenses for what appears to be their central undertaking (printing and publishing) only increasing by 50% to $180K. Hardly an efficiency gain, is it?

    Judging these facts against Brett’s past and the apparent absence of any significant visible activity or product by JFMP I’d say it looks highly dubious.

    Comment by the_last_name_left (4d45ec) — 10/15/2010 @ 11:13 am

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