Photo: By Pax Ahimsa Gethen - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, link
California’s “First Partner,” Jennifer Siebel Newsom, has long advocated for greater diversity and representation in film and television projects – both in the classroom and on the big screen – through a 501(c )(3) nonprofit called The Representation Project.
Nonprofits organized this way are exempt from paying federal taxes because they’re meant to provide a service by educating the public. But they also need to comply with state and federal reporting requirements to protect taxpayers’ interests.
In this case, Newsom’s nonprofit seems to have failed to do this, even as they collect donations from individuals and large corporations that have supported her husband and conducted business with the state of California.
What is The Representation Project?
Documents from The Representation Project state that it is “committed to building a thriving and inclusive society through films, education, and social activism.”
According to its own materials, the project “uses media to challenge harmful gender norms and stereotypes” by producing documentaries, promoting “gender justice” campaigns, publishing reports on gender bias in media, and by training “the next generation of gender justice storytellers” through a film program.
The nonprofit, however, is very controversial.
The various films it has produced troubled parents when they’re included in classroom curricula. The curriculum deals with thorny issues of gender identity and includes graphic imagery of sexual situations and even violence against women.
The funding of the nonprofit, along with the production and distribution of the films, has also come under scrutiny by government watchdogs and raised questions about backdoor political influence in the governor’s office.
A Closer Look At The Fundraising
According to tax records, The Representation Project (TRP) generates most of its funds by collecting charitable contributions and by selling licenses to screen its films. Since 2011, The Representation Project has generated $17,489,680 in revenue.
Yet the nonprofit is currently delinquent with its charitable solicitation registration in California. The annual RRF-1 form necessary to renew the organization’s status as a nonprofit was rejected early in 2022; The Representation Project should have filed a new form and paid a $200 fee in order to regain compliance with state regulations for last year.
According to California law, nonprofits cannot solicit funds while delinquent. Nevertheless, TRP solicited and accepted donations throughout the entirety of 2022.
Screenshot from the state of California Department of Justice showing The Representation Project’s delinquent status. Last checked 1/12/2023, 10AM CT.
Screenshot from the state of California Department of Justice showing The Representation Project’s delinquent status.
The Representation Project Solicits Major Newsom Supporters Doing Business in California
The Representation Project has come under fire in recent years for publicly disclosed donors that also happen to be prominent Newsom campaign contributors and California state vendors. They’re either paid by the state as run by Governor Newsom, or have supported his campaigns, or both.
The nonprofit’s primary fundraising gala each year is called “Flip the Script.” In 2021, the Sacramento Bee reported on Flip the Script donors, and further OpenTheBooks.com reporting shows how much donor organizations received in public funds from the state of California.
Except for 2020, there has been a gala every year from 2016 to 2022. According to tax data, from 2016-2019, the galas generated $1,241,989 in gross receipts. Given the nonprofit’s delinquent status in 2022, it’s not clear whether that year’s event violates prohibitions on donor solicitations while not in good standing with the state.
Along with his wife, Governor Newsom attended the 2018, 2019, and 2022 events in person. There he mingled with top donors to his political campaigns. He also gave remarks at the virtual 2021 event.
Gavin Newsom was photographed several prominent executives and lobbyists during the 2022 gala, including:
- Susan Santana, AT&T Vice President of California Legislative Affairs
- Ken McNeely, AT&T Western Region President, also gala co-chair
- Bert Gomez, Senior Corporate & Government Relations Director, Becker & Poliakoff
- Andrew Riesenfeld, Senior Vice President of Business Development, ZoomInfo
- David Nelson, Executive Director of the California Forward Action Fund, a 501c4 policy advocacy nonprofit
New research from OpenTheBooks.com reveals how much The Representation Project and Gavin Newsom’s campaigns have received from corporations like these, and what they got back in payments from the State of California.
Review this eye-opening chart:
Learn more at OpenTheBooks.com
UPDATED (1/13/22): After our work earned national news coverage, The Representation Project quickly scrambled to file their registration paperwork. Their paperwork with the California Attorney General is signed, dated, and received January 12, 2023. A process that normally takes weeks was executed in just hours.
NOTE: We reached out for comment, context, or background many times to The Representation Project and will update the piece if we receive any response to our inquires.
PG&E Helped Fund The Careers Of California Governor And His Wife. Now He Accuses Public Utility Of ‘Corporate Greed.’ | The Washington Post | November 11, 2019
Companies Lobbying Gavin Newsom Help Fund His Wife’s Non-profit — And Her Salary | Sacramento Bee | June 5, 2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Reaped $10.6 Million In Campaign Cash From 979 State Vendors Who Pocketed $6.2 Billion | OpenTheBooks.Substack.com | August 2022
Historic Announcement– California’s Books Are Open – 201,000 Vendors Received $87 Billion In State Payments | OpenTheBooks.Substack.com | August 2022
California’s Accounting System Cost $1.1 Billion And Still Can’t Produce A State Checkbook | Forbes | December 12, 2019
California Is The Only State To Hide Its Spending | Forbes | December 7, 2021
California Wants To Keep $300 Billion In Spending A Secret | Editorial, Orange County Register | May 2, 2022