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Memo to Unity08: Updates on (Lack) of Answers to Questions

The following is a memo I have posted at Unity08 regarding their non-answers to questions regarding financial disclosure:

In this thread I have posted 12 questions, 11 in the main post and one more in a further comment.

It has been 13 days since I asked these questions (and nearly three months since Unity08’s last online financial disclosure, which was pledged to occur once monthly after the previous pledge of biweekly disclosures was abandoned). They are simple factual questions that, as a financial services professional here noted, are a simple matter for an organization to answer.

The following is my understanding of the answers, or lack of answers, to the questions. These are my understandings based on Unity08’s very, very limited responses. If they are incorrect understandings, I ask for Unity08 to post itemized corrections.

QUESTION 1. Unity08’s second quarter statement lists $18,700 (a significant portion of all donations) as having been made in the year 2002. Is this a typographical error? If it is not a typographical error, was Unity08 conceived in 2002? How does this mesh with the description of Unity08 in its May 30, 2006 press release as a “new grassroots organization” that has been “building for months,” not years?

To answer this question, all a person needs to do is take a 30 second look into the books to find out whether thousands of dollars were actually donated to Unity08 in 2002, as reported to the IRS.

Status: Not Answered.

QUESTION 2. The following donations are shown on the Unity08 webpage but do not appear in the 2nd or 3rd quarter IRS reports:

… [a series of names and dollar amounts] …

What explains the discrepancy, and how is the discrepancy to be remedied?

Unity08 Chief Operating Officer Anya T. Harris wrote in this thread that “All I can tell you is that we are working on reviewing everything to ensure accuracy in all that is reported to the IRS and on the web site.”

This seems to suggest, implicitly, that Unity08 agrees that its IRS disclosures contain inaccuracies.

However, there is no explanation for the implicitly acknowledged inaccuracies, and there is no discussion about how future inaccuracies in this and other (online secure presidential nominations, for instance) projects are to be avoided.

Status: Partially, Implicitly Answered: YES, there are inaccuracies. NO explanation. NO strategy for a remedy.

QUESTION 3. On July 18, 2006, Founders Council Member Doug Bailey indicated of members of the Founders Council that “Some will have expenses reimbursed…. And a few will be providing their business services at standard rates.” Tom Collier of Steptoe and Johnson has provided legal services in his filings with the FEC, which resulted in Unity08 needing to be reclassified as a PAC, not a 527. But there is no indication in the 2nd quarter and 3rd quarter reports of any compensation or reimbursement of Collier or Steptoe and Johnson for their services. Were these services donated? If not, how much compensation or reimbursement is due?

All that’s needed to answer this question is for a secretary to take 30 seconds to look into the payroll, and an additional 30 seconds for someone to type in the dollar amount that Tom Collier of Steptoe and Johnson was provided for his legal services, if any.

Status: Not Answered.

QUESTION 4. The 2nd and 3rd Quarter IRS reports indicate that for over this six month period, Shane Kinkennon has been compensated $7,669.41. Is this a “standard rate” for professional public relations services? Has Mr. Kinkennon been further compensated for his work in this six-month period?

Answering this question is only slightly more complicated than answering question #3, since someone would have to come up with figures showing how Shane Kinkennon’s compensation fits or does not fit the “standard rate” for professional public relations services. This might take half an hour for someone to answer in a straightforward manner, assuming all the books are in order.

Status: Not Answered.

QUESTION 5. Has any group or person other than Unity08 compensated or reimbursed individuals for their Unity08-related work? If so, who and for how much?

This question takes 30 seconds for someone to look up in the books, and 30 seconds to answer.

Status: Not Answered.

QUESTION 6. Unity08 has commissioned a national poll with Princeton Survey Research. I cannot find any description of expenses associated with a national poll on either the 2nd quarter or 3rd quarter list of expenses. Did Unity08 pay for this poll? If so, could you clarify those expenses? If Unity08 did not pay for this poll, who did pay for the poll?

Another question taking 30 seconds for someone to look up in the books, and 30 seconds to answer — assuming Unity08’s books are in order.

Status: Not Answered.

QUESTION 7. On October 11, Unity08 updated its financial disclosures on its website from July, when it had pledged to make disclosure updates every two weeks. As of October 11, Unity08 provided information on donations as of September 1, and pledged that “This list will be updated once a month in the spirit of greater financial transparency, which is sorely lacking in politics today.” The list has not been updated in more than two months. When will this list be updated next?

This is a simple question to answer, with the one word “NOW,” if Unity08 plans to keep its second pledge, a relaxation of the first.

On December 29, Unity08 Chief Operating Officer Anya T. Harris responded: “we will report on the list of $200+ donors as soon as the reports are ready and complete. There’s no more I can say on this subject.”

I do not know whether “CAN” means “able” or “permitted.” These are reports which have for the 2nd and 3rd quarter already been submitted long ago, and my questions regarded the 2nd and 3rd quarter. Presumably “the reports” refer to revisions for the IRS. Regardless, although the commitment to financial transparency and monthly disclosures remain to this moment on the Unity08 website, there is no longer in Anya T. Harris’ message any commitment to regular disclosures of Unity08’s financial status. There appears to be an acknowledgement that monthly disclosures are not in the cards.

Status: Answered. PLEDGE ABANDONED.

QUESTION 8. As of December 20, the website still refers to the Unity08 organization as a 527 organization, and still refers to its status as under review by the FEC. The FEC has ruled that Unity08 must classify as a PAC. There are no electronic filings with the FEC for Unity08 available for review on its website. Has Unity08 reregistered as a PAC? If so, when will public records for the PAC become available?

The first question is a simple factual question with a simple answer that surely every member of the Unity08 staff should know: whether Unity08 has now registered as a PAC. 15 seconds to type the answer.

The second question is also a simple factual question with a simple answer that takes maybe a 1 minute call to the organization’s treasurer: will the PAC records begin with the 4th Quarter of 2006, or with the 1st Quarter of 2007? Add 15 seconds to type the answer.

Status: Not Answered.

QUESTION 9. What is the total dollar amount of all donations — including those under $200 — received thus far by Unity08?

Unless the receipts are all stored in a shoebox, this takes a 5 minute trip to a spreadsheet to answer.

Status: Not Answered.

QUESTION 10. If Unity08 has a positive balance in its accounts, what is that balance? If Unity08 is in debt at this point, by how much? From whom is it obtaining loans, if it is in debt?

Unless financial records are stored in a shoebox, this takes a 5 minute trip to a spreadsheet to answer.

Status: Not Answered.

QUESTION 11. The Unity08 plan for early 2007 — that’s starting next month — reads as follows:

“In order for Unity08 to compete with a bipartisan Unity Ticket for the White House in 2008, it must be on the ballot in all 50 states. Each state has its own law, and the laws vary dramatically from state to state. But most require thousands of signatures on a petition.

“Unity08 is readying its ground troops to begin securing ballot access early in 2007. We will start with only a handful of states first, recruit staff and volunteers, provide guidance and assistance, and provide tools. We’ll learn from what we do well in those states, and learn from our mistakes. And we’ll learn from what our online supporters tells us. Then we’ll incorporate those learnings into our efforts in the next state.”

What is the financial plan for Unity08 to accomplish the Unity08 political plan, given the current state of its finances?

OK, so to be fair that’s a good 45 minute response. But surely Unity08 has a financial plan for success already, unless it is unprepared. All one has to do is tell us about it, which maybe takes some clever writing. But a paragraph or two to sketch out the basic plan should do it.

Status: Not Answered.

QUESTION 12. Since writing the original eleven questions regarding the financial transparency to which Unity08 has committed itself, I’ve noticed another position — Anya Harris, Chief Operating Officer of Unity08. Yet there is no notice in the 2nd and 3rd quarter reports made to the IRS for Unity08 of Anya Harris (or any Chief Operating Officer) receiving compensation.

Has the Chief Operating Officer of Unity08 been compensated in any manner for her work, which includes hiring duties as well as website duties? If so, for what amount and out of what source of funds? If not, how has the Chief Operating Officer sustained herself during her period of volunteering for Unity08, and what is the source of that sustenance?

If Anya T. Harris’ compensation has all been in the 4th Quarter, then the response is a very quick one: “wait for the next IRS report.” If Anya T. Harris’ compensation has not been reported, then the response should also take a very small amount of time: “whoops, we made an omission. Here’s what should have been in the IRS report.” If, on the other hand, Anya T. Harris — a veteran marketing executive who has been highly paid for her past work — is volunteering her services, then there’s a long answer due, explaining who is enabling Harris’ volunteer service for Unity08 and what interest they might have for doing so. Any of the three possible strains of answers are clearly important given COO Harris’ central role in Unity08 and Unity08’s very ambitious agenda.

Status: Not Answered.

You know, that’s not a very good record of “financial transparency, which is sorely lacking in politics today.” Unity08 wrote that bit. Unity08 also wrote that “Transparency is essential to the public’s trust.”

I am frankly mystified as to why Unity08 would not answer these questions, since they stand in the way of the public trust, and since with reports mandated either to the IRS (527 status) or to the FEC (PAC status), the vast majority of this information must by law come out eventually. You literally, by law, owe it to the public.

So why won’t Unity08 answer the questions?

I can’t speak for the public’s trust in Unity08, but mine is swiftly deteriorating.

Please, Unity08, answer the questions.

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