I got something in the mail yesterday, a certified letter from True the Vote in Houston.
We've been covering the Tea Party-organized group, which trains volunteers to challenge voters' registrations and then voters themselves at the polls. True the Vote aims to have a million poll watchers ready for November, so every precinct in America gets at least one. Those watchers are supposed to give voters a feeling like "driving and seeing the police following you."
We knew that True the Vote raised $64,687 (pdf) in 2010, the first year the group sent watchers into the polls, and we knew that True the Vote reported its revenue as coming from contributions, gifts and grants. True the Vote's founder says they get money by passing around an old felt cowboy hat at meetings.
Now that we've got True the Vote's 2011 tax returns, we can tell you the old felt hat has gotten a good bit heavier. The group took in twice as much money that year -- $136,957 -- as the one before. More than half of that came from three contributions: $50,000, $19,000 and $5,000. We know the amounts because the IRS requires nonprofits to itemize large donations. We don't know who made the donations, because the IRS doesn't require nonprofits like True the Vote to reveal that, and True the Vote redacted the names in the copy they sent us.
True the Vote's right to shield the names of its donors is in some dispute. In March, a Texas judge ruled that True the Vote is operating as an unregistered political action committee supporting Republicans, and not as a nonpolitical charity. True the Vote has appealed, and for now, this is what the public can see about their big-money donors (red circles added):
A couple more bits about True the Vote:
True the Vote was founded by King Street Patriots, a Houston Tea Party chapter. In August 2011, according to the tax papers, the founders moved to change the official name from KSP/True the Vote to just True the Vote. The idea, they wrote, is that King Street Patriots has a different mission. In September 2011, True the Vote reached a "facility use agreement" in which it pays the King Street for "occupancy costs." By December 2011, True the Vote owed King Street Patriots $22,038 for "occupancy related costs" and "certain costs paid by King Street Patriots for programmatic activities of True the Vote."