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Unity08 Likely Fails Its Own Clean Money Pledge

With the new year, Unity08 rolled out a Clean Money Pledge. It challenged members of the public to sign on to a statement in which they committed to the following plan of action: “I will only vote for a presidential candidate who has raised more than half of his/her funds through small contributions of $250 or less.” It further sent out letters to presidential candidates in the Republican and Democratic parties, challenging them to commit to take a majority of their funds from donations of $250 or less.

In an aside, Unity08 noted:

Like the weather, most politicians pay lip service to the dangers of special interest lobbyist money in Washington, but few do anything about it –except take the money.

Well, if a new President is going to try to talk the talk of cleaning up the lobbyist money culture in Washington that so corrodes the democratic process, he or she had better have walked the walk in their 2008 campaign.

Has Unity08 followed the spirit of its own Clean Money Pledge? Has it walked the walk or just talked the talk?

From Unity08′s own 4th Quarter report to the IRS, here are the timings and dollar amounts of donations to Unity08 in the 4th Quarter of 2006, by those who donated at least $200 during the whole year of 2006:

10/6/2006 $5,000
10/6/2006 $5,000
10/23/2006 $5,000
10/25/2006 $5,000
10/25/2006 $5,000
11/1/2006 $5,000
11/7/2006 $5,000
12/7/2006 $5,000
12/31/2006 $23,545
10/3/2006 $5,000
10/3/2006 $5,000
10/3/2006 $5,000
10/3/2006 $5,000
10/3/2006 $5,000
10/3/2006 $5,000
10/6/2006 $5,000
10/6/2006 $5,000
10/16/2006 $5,000
10/16/2006 $5,000
10/16/2006 $5,000
10/16/2006 $5,000
10/20/2006 $5,000
10/23/2006 $1,000
10/23/2006 $200
10/23/2006 $200
10/23/2006 $75
10/24/2006 $200
10/25/2006 $1,000
10/25/2006 $5,000
10/25/2006 $5,000
10/25/2006 $5,000
10/27/2006 $5,000
11/1/2006 $5,000
11/2/2006 $5,000
11/3/2006 $5,000
11/3/2006 $5,000
11/7/2006 $5,000
11/7/2006 $5,000
11/7/2006 $300
11/10/2006 $5,000
11/10/2006 $5,000
11/10/2006 $5,000
11/10/2006 $5,000
11/10/2006 $5,000
11/20/2006 $5,000
11/20/2006 $5,000
11/27/2006 $200
12/1/2006 $5,000
12/4/2006 $5,000
12/4/2006 $5,000
12/5/2006 $5,000
12/5/2006 $5,000
12/5/2006 $100
12/7/2006 $5,000
12/11/2006 $5,000
12/11/2006 $5,000
12/11/2006 $5,000
12/12/2006 $5,000
12/12/2006 $5,000
12/12/2006 $5,000
12/12/2006 $5,000
12/14/2006 $5,000
12/14/2006 $5,000
12/17/2006 $5,000
12/22/2006 $5,000
12/26/2006 $100
12/27/2006 $5,000

The total donated to Unity08 in the 4th Quarter of 2006 (remember, by those who donated at least $200 in all of 2006) was a whopping $306,920. This is much more than the approximately $77,000 to $95,000 amount raised by Unity08 (again, from those giving at least $200) in the previous six month period. Where did this surge come from? From $5,000 donations, plus that mysterious $23,545 donation that appears to bust Unity08′s own $5,000 limit. Only 0.35% of the dollar value of the 4th Quarter Donations listed above come from donations of $250 or less. 99.65% of the dollar value of those donations come from donations of $250 or more.

Now, I need to take a step back here and be fair. Unity08 does not report on donations in the 4th Quarter from those donating less than $200 in the whole year of 2006. It is possible that Unity08 received a whole lot of contributions of less than $200 in the 4th Quarter.

This is a classic word problem: How many donations of less than $200 would Unity08 have to receive in order to have half the dollar value of its donations come from small donations of $250 or less? Let’s start with the dollar value we know of donations of $250 or less, and compare it to the dollar value of donations of more than $250.

$250 or less, reported total: $1,075
More than $250, reported total: $305,845

To reach that halfway mark, Unity08 would have had to receive ($305,845 – $1,075) in donations of less than $200. That’s $304,770 in donations of less than $200 that Unity08 would have to receive.

To find the lowest number of donations of less than $200 that Unity08 has to receive, let’s imagine that each donor gave $199, as close as you can come to $200. That way, we’ll get the lowest number of donors possible that Unity08 isn’t telling us about, while it still satisfies its own Clean Money Pledge.

$304,770 divided by $199 is equal to 1,531.5 donors. Let’s be nice and round down to 1,531 donors of $199 each.

This all boils down to the question:

Did Unity08 receive at least 1,531 donations of less than $200 during the 4th Quarter of 2006, or did Unity08 violate the spirit of its own Clean Money Pledge?

I’m looking forward to the answer. And as of this calendar year, we’ll begin to be able to answer the question ourselves without relying on the transparency of Unity08. New IRS regulations require that 527 organizations such as Unity must from now on disclose the total dollar amount of donations under $200.

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