Daily Beast: This Shaun King created group looks sort of sketchy

(Vino Wong/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Deray McKesson wrote a lengthy piece criticizing Shaun King’s leadership and management skills three years ago. Here’s a bit of what he wrote at the time.

Shaun has followed a uniform pattern over the years, a pattern that has compelled me to speak up, again. This is not the first time I have done so, and I am not alone. Johnetta Elzie and I were in a previous public disagreement with Shaun about issues of transparency and ethics that ended in his apology. Shaun also deleted all of his tweets and noted that he would focus on journalism and would not engage in attempted organizing or fundraising. Importantly, he made this commitment to others both publicly and privately. It is clear now that he did not keep those commitments and after a brief hiatus, re-emerged and began engaging in the same behaviors that caused the last public conflict…
I tried previously to engage offline to resolve these tensions, but his behaviors did not change. There is a formula that he employs when people ask questions or highlight contradictions: issue an unconditional denial, attack the character of the person asking questions, argue that white supremacists are attacking him or his family, respond only to the least salient of all points raised, then issue a statement akin to an apology.

But he does not often answer any of the questions or offer any resolution of contradictions raised, but instead, deflects.

And then two years ago in May 2020, the Daily Beast published a lengthy story criticizing King’s habit of starting new group/fundraising entities and rarely following through or delivering on what he promised:

When Shaun King and progressive journalist Benjamin Dixon launched an ambitious multimedia reboot of Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist newspaper, The North Star, last February, it was celebrated across social media by prominent voices, including Susan Sarandon, Michael Eric Dyson, and Megan Mullally. A month later, the company boasted on Twitter that it already had “multiple angel investors” and more than 30,000 subscribers contributing $5 per month for students and $10 a month and up for the general public…

But 14 months after launching, almost none of what King promised to build has appeared and the site has struggled with issues that alienated many subscribers. The headquarters and television studio was quietly shuttered last summer, and all Atlanta-based staffers laid off. The mobile app disappeared for over a year, and the “full news site” displays branded The North Star apparel for sale alongside relatively scant original journalism…

While it should be noted that no criminal or civil charges have ever been filed against King, the story—in the words of former employees of The North Star—was one of “self sabotage” by him, and “really shady f**king business” with “a liar & a fraud.”

Keep all of that in mind as you read today’s entry by the Daily Beast. It turns out that in the wake of George Floyd’s death another King-create entity called the Grassroots Law Project took in more than $6.6 million dollars. Where did that money go? As always with Shaun King, it’s hard to tell.

The single largest expenditure the Grassroots Law Project made in its first year was $2,654,434, which the disclosures only state went “to bridge the gap between grassroots organizing and legal expertise to reform the American justice system.”

The organization’s representatives acknowledged to The Daily Beast that this referred, at least in part, to the group’s flagship program following its launch: “Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commissions”—ostensibly modeled on those instituted after the fall of apartheid in South Africa—that the Grassroots Law Project would go on to help set up in the district attorneys’ offices of San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Boston…

“This system is not broken. It’s functioning exactly the way those who designed and built it intended it to function. It was not built to give marginalized communities justice,” King said in a joint press release with Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner, then-San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin, and then-Boston D.A. Rachael Rollins. “It was built to oppress them. And moving forward, we must build brand new pathways for truth, justice, and reconciliation. The old ones will never get us there.”

But, more than two years on, the commissions’ online pages appear largely stagnant—much like the initiative itself.

The Boston district attorney’s office told The Daily Beast that its commission “unfortunately, did not get off the ground,” while the San Francisco D.A.’s office said its committee had yet to hold a single meeting. Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner—whose exceedingly close political ties to King and one of his PACs have gotten him slapped with thousands of dollars in campaign finance violation fees—did not respond to questions about the commission’s status that were left with his office and on his personal cellphone.

The group now says that only $500,000 was spent on the commissions that went nowhere. So where did the other $2.1 million go? Again, the answer seems incredibly vague. It went “toward various policy pushes and campaigns for prosecutorial leniency, phone-banking, donations to other groups, and legal defense funds.”

Meanwhile, one thing that’s not entirely vague is how much money has gone to Shaun King:

The 2020 tax filings The Daily Beast received show King earned a salary of $104,167 as the Grassroots Law Project’s executive director during the group’s first 12 months. But the group’s representatives told The Daily Beast his compensation has since swelled to a quarter-million a year—or, around twice the median compensation for nonprofit executives.

So what is Shaun King’s response to all of this? Well he protected his Twitter account after the story was published so he’s not saying anything. But according to a Daily Beast reporter who followed the development of the story, King definitely knew it was coming and did his best to kill it before publication.

So it’s probably not coincidental that just yesterday, King wrote a long fundraising letter for the North Star: [emphasis in original]

Right now, we need at least 5,000 new or renewing people to become subscribers for us to even be able to continue our work. Without them, I am not sure how we can move forward, honestly. I want to say this very plainly…

If we don’t get more subscribers to purchase monthly or annual memberships, we will have to end my podcast and shut down The North Star altogether.

Between Shaun King’s repeated grifting and BLM buying million dollar houses and (allegedly) using their fundraising as a slush fund, the anti-police left is having a rough year.

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