Most people watched Ahmaud Arbery’s homicide with shock and disgust. A jogger gunned down in Georgia presumably because of the color of his skin, with a kicker: Police and prosecutors sat on it and did nothing. Now it appears that some people with a political agenda are using this tragic affair to advance progressive politics with the added benefit of generating some cash on the side. It is possible – and now looks quite likely – that this is exactly what is going on: Arbery was murdered, and his death is being used to demonize others rather than promote justice. Otherwise, why would political action committees and activists with checkered pasts have such prominent roles in the public narrative concerning Arbery’s death?
The prime movers behind the national attention on Arbery’s shooting are Shaun King and Lee Merritt. These two men who appear on national media to discuss the case continually plug runwithmaud.com, directing all traffic and interest to the website. Merritt is one of the lawyers representing Arbery’s parents, so the typical visitor sympathetic to the sad story of Mr. Arbery’s demise might think they are being implored to visit the website to help the family of the deceased. Perhaps they would be surprised to know they are pawns in progressive electoral tactics with fundraising to boot.
Arbery = Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & George Soros?
Visitors to runwithmaud.com are told about white supremacists who lynched Arbery and asked to sign a petition with personal information, including zip codes. The website was paid for by The Action PAC, a so-called Super PAC that can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and labor unions, and spend unlimited amounts in support of a candidate. Those who click through to theactionpac.com are greeted with another request for information, as well as fundraising appeals. Mr. Merritt is The Action PAC’s treasurer, and the group was started by Shaun King. Why is the lawyer for Arbery’s mother directing support to a Democrat Super PAC he controls with his friend, and what are they doing with the money and data?
The most recent federal disclosure suggests they will give it to groups aligned with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and George Soros. There is room for King and Merritt to personally profit from contributions as well, though it has not been established that they will.
In the first quarter of 2020 alone, The Action PAC paid over $35,000 to Middle Seat Consulting, a “full-service media and fundraising firm for progressive candidates.” This organization is a hotbed of AOC confederates and profiles her on its website. Her campaign committee paid the firm $33,666 for email consulting in 2018, and the Justice Democrats PAC run by Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, paid Middle Seat $300,000. Keeping it all in the family, Middle Seat Consulting co-founder Zack Exley was also a co-founder of Justice Democrats. AOC was put up to run for office by Exley and Chakrabarti and said, “I’m a Justice Democrat” in a commercial for the group. Finally, Exley was a fellow at George Soros’ Open Society Institute, where the website details his longstanding progressive bonafides. Again, one might wonder: What does all this have to do with the death of Ahmaud Arbery and who stands to gain? For that, we must dig a little deeper.
The Action PAC – which is the organization that paid for the Arbery website – sent over $60,000 this year to another Super PAC called Real Justice. The Real Justice PAC ended 2019 with over $1.5 million in cash on hand. Most of the funds paid from The Action PAC to Real Justice are listed as “payroll” in the disclosure, but no individual recipients are identified.
A name that keeps popping up on the legal documents of these organizations is one Rebecca Bond. She’s listed as the treasurer of Real Justice PAC and a founder of a private business called The Social Practice. Bond appears to be a lynchpin in this tangled web of political action committees now associated with Arbery. Oddly, The Social Practice, the Real Justice PAC, and The Action PAC all share the same street address in San Francisco, which appears to be a storefront mailbox rental service.
The stated mission of Bond’s business, The Social Practice, is “to equip people and organizations leading the fight against austerity and the rise of right-wing authoritarianism with cutting edge strategies, tactics, and tools.” This limited liability company was paid approximately $35,000 during the first three months of 2020 by The Action PAC for “Campaign Consulting.” Since The Social Practice was incorporated as a private concern, it is not required to disclose who it pays – unlike the PACs, which are subject to stringent Federal Election Committee reporting requirements.
Who benefits from these payments? Do Merritt or King have any personal financial dealings with The Social Practice? We don’t know.
Morehouse Men and Their Roles
The men focusing national attention in the Arbery case have a decades long history with each other in the area of social activism. Mr. King self-identifies as a civil rights activist and has massive social media outreach with over a million Twitter followers. In watching the Arbery shooting he said he felt like his blood was “literally boiling” in response to the “lynching” by “open bigots” and “open white supremacists.” Merritt is his partner in the effort and a lawyer who represents Arbery’s mother. He said, “This was not only murder; it was a lynching.”
Mr. King is a controversial activist who rose to national prominence over various campaigns involving high-profile cases and the Black Lives Matter movement. He has been accused of faking his own racial identity as a black man, and more seriously, massive financial impropriety involving a number of his fundraising efforts. Those claims came not by white conservatives, but by black activists who worked with him in the past, including DeRay Mckesson, who said:
“It is important to note that Shaun’s journalism has done some good by bringing attention to stories that may have gone under-reported or overlooked. But the person who paints your house before he steals your car has still committed theft.”
Lee Merritt has been friends with King since the two attended Morehouse College together. As a lawyer, Merritt has been involved with many high profile, racially explosive cases, representing the family of the deceased as he is doing with Arbery. Another one of his cases was that of Botham Jean, who was famously killed by a police officer. However, in the case of Sherita Dixon Cole, Merritt appeared to be sowing the seeds of resentment and fury. Cole claimed a Texas cop viciously sexually assaulted her. King had broadcast her lies as if he witnessed them. The truth, however, finally came out that Cole had made the whole thing up after camera footage proved the black woman simply made up the story and that the white officer she accused was operating by the book.
The Merritt-King alliance is strongly at play in the Arbery case as well, and we should consider whether the team is about justice or money and votes. Merritt called King “one of my best friends on the planet,” in a recent video.
Merritt signed off on a sort of quasi-review of King’s fundraising history that the latter produced to quell talk of self-dealing. That effort seemed to raise more questions than resolve them, however, prompting an exposé in The Washington Post, and the activist has responded to questions over his financial dealings with a heavy hand. One thing we know for sure, these two are comfortable screaming vile racism first and sorting out the facts later. That may be good fertilizer for Twitter followers, voter registration, and donations to combat hate, but it is the enemy of justice and racial cohesion – something the country could use right now.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.
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