Unity08 Error Rate: 3 out of 54, or 28 out of 77 (and then some)
You know, in their two 527 filings with the IRS, Unity08 (or Unity 08, depending on which form you look at) didn’t really have that much material to worry about: just 56 donations of at least $200 to report, between two date ranges. But in their second quarter report, they list two contributions from the third quarter, and presumably use those contributions to add up their contributions to their reported second quarter total. I say “presumably,” because the reported second quarter “total amount of reported contributions (total from all attached Schedules A)” is $63,576.00. And yet, triple-checking my work all the Schedules A Unity08 actually attached sum up to only $41,826.00 — even including those two contributions from the third quarter. Now, it’s possible that Unity08 is adding in the value of some contributions that were for less than $200, in which case the error is a matter of not following directions rather than of not adding correctly.
But wait, there’s more. In the third quarter report, those two contributions from the second quarter show up again, and contribute to the reported third quarter total of $17,750.00 in contributions (which at least this time matches the amount shown in Schedule A). And there’s a third contribution, of $500 from “Patricia Roderick” of New Mexico, that shows up with a donation date of 7/6/2006. But there was a donation of $500 from “Trish Roderick” of New Mexico showing up on the second quarter report with a donation date of 6/16/2006. And Unity08’s donations report on its own website claims that Patricia Roderick of New Mexico has only donated $500, and doesn’t list a separate Trish Roderick donation. On the matter of Patricia Roderick, either Unity08’s donations report on its own website is wrong, or Unity08’s donations report to the IRS is wrong.
For the IRS donations reports (not counting various typographical errors and the mysterious extra money in the 2nd quarter report) that makes an error rate of 3 out of 54, or 5.4%.
But wait! Here comes a bigger mystery. Unity08’s donations report on its own website has the same standard — reporting donations of $200 or more — as the IRS reports. It has an earlier ending date than the 2nd quarter and 3rd quarter reports — September 1, 2006 rather than September 30, 2006 — so if anything, the IRS reports should show more donations than the Unity08 webpage (although the IRS reports show no donations from September 1 to September 30). Also, the IRS 2nd quarter report shows donations stretching back in time, with seven donations going all the way back to 2002 (odd for an organization claiming to have organized just in May of 2006), so again the IRS report should be if anything more complete.
And yet, the following donations are shown on the Unity08 webpage but do not appear on the IRS reports:
Thomas Beard Atlanta GA $1,000
Charles Buck Weston CT $200
Mark Cave Charlottesville VA $300
Ian Davis Chapel Hill NC $200
Thomas Delaney Saint Louis MO $200
Michael Ghiglione Spokane WA $200
Carol Guardo Fountain Hills AZ $200
Jim Jonas Denver CO $250
Hamilton Jordan Atlanta GA $5,000
Dorothy Jordan Atlanta GA $5,000
David Litt Columbus OH $500
Jack Lohman Colgate WI $200
Richard Mullen San Francisco CA $250
Sean Myers Coopersville MI $200
Dennis Nolan Anchorage AK $300
Dennis Nolan Anchorage AK $200
Joseph Parlante Bethesda MD $300
Malcolm Peabody Washington DC $250
Malcolm Philbrook Jr. Biddeford ME $200
Grant Reeder San Diego CA $200
Victoria Sant Washington DC $5,000
John Singleton Kingsport TN $200
James Stragand Bend OR $200
Lisa Sunderlin Troy MI $200
Glen Vanderhorn Brick NJ $200
Michael Wenzke Boston MA $200
Amos Wilder Chevy Chase MD $200
Julie Wright San Diego CA $1,000
These donations add up to $22,350, which coincidentally is almost exactly the amount missing from the IRS report Schedule A for the 2nd quarter report.
If we compare the IRS reports to the Unity08 webpage report, the Unity08 error rate is much higher, 28 out of 77, or 36.4%.
A 36.4% error rate is huge, but let’s be generous and imagine that this higher error rate is due to IRS error — such as a Schedule A that failed to be scanned in to its online disclosure system. The smaller 5.4% error rate doesn’t sound so bad, does it? No, until you consider that in that case Unity08 had to juggle just 54 donations, which is not that tricksy. And it doesn’t sound so bad until you recall that Unity08 says it’s going to run the first-ever online national election. 5.4% is usually within the margin of victory for an election.
Postscript: Yesterday, Vynce asked the fair question, “Why do you keep giving unity08 free press? They obviously arenâ€™t going anywhere.”
My response was to write, “Because I worry that they are going to try to go somewhere in the near future, and to siphon off real, actual, grassroots energy for their insider politics that masquerades as people politics.
I donâ€™t want Faux Populism 2008 to kill the real thing and let the Republicans get in office. Now, weâ€™re in the political doldrums. But I predict that Unity08 is going to have another go at provoking public sympathy come January. When that happens, I want people to know what Unity08 is and does.”
This morning I’d just add a note that despite its quirky at best approach to openness and finances, Unity08 has assembled a high-power team of insiders and their associates on its Founders Council and Rules Committee, the membership of which the organization just announced. That gives Unity08 some legs. Also giving Unity08 some legs is its record of getting itself written about on the pages of the nation’s top newspapers and magazines and getting its members placed on news networks for interviews. Because it has insider heft despite its populist weakness, Unity08 should definitely not be taken for dead yet.