Freedom Inc. isn’t shy about pushing its radical rhetoric.
The Madison-based nonprofit has advocated for the release of all African Americans from jail and the defunding of police departments. As for the current protests, the group’s leaders say “all actions against racist state violence are justified.”
“Stop murdering black people, and your glass will be safe,” Monica Adams, co-executive director for Freedom Inc., said while leading the third day of police protests in the state’s capital on Monday.
“Thank all the youth freedom fighters who were in the streets fighting (Sunday) night and Saturday night,” said Mahnker Dahnweih, community power-building coordinator for Freedom Inc. “Every action is a contribution to liberation.”
So where does a group like this get the money it needs to promote its agenda?
A lot of it comes from you.
Records show that the state has awarded contracts and grants worth $3.6 million to Freedom Inc., which advocates for minority and LGBTQ communities, over the past five years.
That includes $876,674 in grants awarded by the state Department of Justice since January 2019, when Attorney General Josh Kaul took office. The state Department of Children and Families has paid out $732,403 to Freedom Inc. under Gov. Tony Evers over the past 1½ years.
That’s a lot of money for an organization that reported a total budget of $3.3 million in 2018, according to federal tax records. Freedom Inc.’s income has increased tenfold since 2014, when it reported revenue of just $311,670.
Adam’s salary has doubled in the past few years. She reported earning an annual paycheck of $104,230 in 2018 — up from $52,154 two years prior.
The group has a net fund balance exceeding $2 million.
It lists its purpose on tax forms as trying to “achieve social justice through coupling direct services with leadership development and community organizing.”
State Sen. Steve Nass, a Whitewater Republican, said he was concerned that state tax dollars may be going to help Freedom Inc.’s “radical” political agenda. He called on the governor and attorney general, both Democrats, to investigate.
“The taxpayers of Wisconsin should not be funding any group that supports rioting, looting and actions to terrorize citizens with street violence,” Nass said.
“Governor Evers and Attorney General Kaul have the duty to determine that the grant funds they issued to this extremist group are not being used in any way to subsidize the street violence of the last several days.”
It wasn’t just Nass, however, who was upset with Freedom Inc.’s words and actions.
John “Sly” Sylvester, a liberal radio talker for WIBA-FM (101.5), went off on Adams and her group for blocking John Nolen Drive in Madison for eight hours on Monday.
“M. Adams, who wears an ‘I hate pigs’ tee-shirt, is calling for total elimination of our police force,” Sylvester wrote on Facebook. “She also said your windows will be safe when we get our way. I am a fighter for all workers, that includes police officers.”
But officials with Evers and Kaul defended the contracts and grants awarded to Freedom Inc.
Gillian Drummond, Kaul’s spokeswoman, noted that the Justice Department has been providing grant money to the organization for more than a decade under both Republican and Democratic attorneys general.
Drummond said her agency funds the group under federal grant programs created under the Violence Against Women and Victims of Crime acts. Among other things, she said, Freedom Inc. is given grants to provide services to sexual assault survivors in black, Hmong and LGBTQ communities.
Freedom Inc. lists a dozen programs on its website, such as an anti-violence Black Girls Matter program and the Lotus Youth Group, which helps Cambodian youth “build healthy relationships with families and communities through dance and cultural arts.”
The organization, Drummond said, has received the grants through a competitive, merit-based process and has done a “great job” in the past.
“They provide a critical, unique service,” Drummond said.
Records show that Freedom was first awarded a grant by the state Justice Department in August 2009. It currently has two grants — one under the “Love People Like Us” program and the other under the “Free to Be: Free From Gender Based Violence” program — for a total of $803,654.
Drummond’s remarks were echoed by those at the Department of Children and Family Services.
Tom McCarthy, spokesman for the agency, said Freedom Inc. began getting contracts under Republican Gov. Scott Walker and that has continued under Evers. McCarthy said the organization got its contracts by beating out other bidders. Its work, he said, has been excellent, according to agency audits.
McCarthy said few other groups can provide the services that are available through Freedom Inc.
“Many of the survivors Freedom Inc. serves do not feel comfortable going to mainstream organizations,” McCarthy said. “Instead, they want services from an organization that speaks their language and understands their culture and current reality.”
Which is all well and good.
But are the governor and attorney general comfortable providing state tax dollars to a group that calls for defunding police departments and releasing criminals on the streets while offering vocal support to those looting and rioting in cities around the country?
Staffers for the state’s two top Democrats declined to address the question.
Adams did not respond to calls and emails.
Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 224-2135 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice or on Facebook at fb.me/daniel.bice.
Read or Share this story: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/daniel-bice/2020/06/02/group-leading-madison-protests-paid-millions-state-tax-dollars/5316822002/