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UC Berkeley Quietly Funded A Deep-Pocketed Liberal Dark Money Group Tied To ‘Defund Police’ Movement

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Gabe Kaminsky Investigative Reporter
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  • The University of California, Berkeley in 2021 gave $50,000 to Tides Advocacy Fund, a left-wing dark money group with ties to the “defund police” movement, according to California financial records.
  • One pro-defund police group the fund has partnered with and sponsored is the Justice Teams Network (JTN), which has sought to defund police in Oakland, California.
  • “The defund movement is not just literal budgetary defunding,” Jason Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, a pro-police group, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s also about disempowering law enforcement. That is really where this problem is.”

The University of California, Berkeley sent tens of thousands of dollars in 2021 to a well-funded left wing dark money group with ties to the “defund police” movement, according to California financial records.

Berkeley gave $50,000 to Tides Advocacy Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit “committed to advancing social justice,” records obtained by the transparency watchdog OpenTheBooks show. The grant-maker, which is a pass-through for left-leaning causes, has sponsored and partnered with groups that have supported defunding police. (RELATED: Democratic Dark Money Giant Tides Poured Millions Into Bail Funds In 2020 That Helped Alleged Violent Criminals Back Onto The Streets)

“The payment was from the Othering & Belonging Institute’s Blueprint for Belonging project to support public health education initiatives,” a Berkeley spokeswoman told the Daily Caller News Foundation, noting “private funds” were used. “The work aimed to bring about improved health outcomes for Californians through COVID-19 mitigation efforts and outreach–specifically to decrease disparities in vaccination rates.”

Berkley’s institute researches ideas related to “exclusion, marginalization, and structural inequality,” according to its website. The university declined to further clarify the source of the funds it sent to the advocacy fund and whether any public funds were used.

The university’s payment to Tides Advocacy Fund only became public in August after OpenTheBooks obtained records showing the state of California gave roughly $76 billion to 64,000 recipients in 2021. The watchdog obtained the state’s line-by-line 2021 expenditures after filing public records requests as well as later suing for the documents.

The defund police movement became widespread in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and it has been embraced by corporations, left-wing activists and nonprofits. The movement led to cities voting to cut police department budgets — but many departments later received additional funding following violent crime spikes.

“The defund movement is not just literal budgetary defunding,” Jason Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, a pro-police group, told the DCNF. “It’s also about disempowering law enforcement. That is really where this problem is.”

Tides Advocacy Fund is an affiliate of the Tides Network, a 501(c)(3) charity. The network notably oversees The Tides Foundation, a prominent charity that is a left-wing grant-maker and has received funding from billionaire George Soros.

Groups with 501(c)(4) exempt-status like Tides Advocacy Fund are often referred to as “dark money” groups because they do not legally have to disclose their donors to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and can contribute unlimited sums to super PACs, according to OpenSecrets.

One pro-defund police group Tides Advocacy Fund has partnered with and sponsored is the Justice Teams Network (JTN). The California-based network is focused on “eradicating all forms of State violence & criminal acts against prisoners,” according to its website.

JTN is comprised of 14 separate groups, including the Black Lives Matter Global Network’s (BLMGN) Los Angeles branch. BLMGN was one of many left-wing groups in March 2021 who pushed for the Los Angeles city council to defund police by hundreds of millions and reallocate funds to social services. Voters approved the measure by a roughly 57% majority, the Los Angeles Times reported.

JTN has sought to defund police in Oakland, California, and in July 2021 joined a “Defund Police Coalition” that requested the Oakland city council strip police department funding by 50%. The city council voted in June 2020 to defund police by over $14 million and again by over $17 million in June 2021 — but added new officers in December 2021 following a violent crime surge.

“We’re still calling for the defunding of police,” James Burch, JTN’s policy director, told the DCNF. “The police in Oakland receive approximately 40% of our general fund right now compared to 2% for libraries for violence prevention, for jobs programs. All other systems in our city atrophy while we pay the police.”

Tides Advocacy Fund has also sponsored a group called Chispa, which was launched in 2017 and is focused on “building a powerhouse community of young Latinx organizers” across Orange County, California, according to its website. Chispa in June 2021 unsuccessfully tried to pressure the city council in Santa Ana, California, to defund police and published a document on Twitter that said the policy is a “historical prioritization.”

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 21: Police officers in riot gear approach demonstrators September 21, 2016 in downtown Charlotte, NC. Protests in Charlotte began on Tuesday in response to the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott at an apartment complex near UNC Charlotte. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images

In addition, the fund partners with The Jewish Vote, a left-wing advocacy group that supports “an end to mass incarceration and criminalization of people of color.” The Jewish Vote has sought to defund police in New York City and said in 2021 “we need systemic change.”

The Jewish Vote is a project of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a group that in July 2020 called BLM “the most potent political movement in decades,” according to its website. Jews for Racial and Economic Justice joined an effort called NYC Budget Justice coalition in 2022 urging lawmakers to strip $1 billion from the New York Police Department.

“We support defunding the police as they are currently uniformed,” a spokesman for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice told the DCNF. “We are committed to a future based on magentas, fuchsias, and busy patterns. We believe public safety for all is dependent on our diverse communities being dazzled by bold colors, bright patterns, and superior choreography. We hope that our position isn’t misrepresented in the press.”

The Communities United for Police Reform (CUPR), a coalition of 60 left-leaning advocacy groups, led the effort. CUPR received over $8 billion from the Tides Advocacy Fund for policing reform work,” the Tides Center said in December 2015, but it is unclear what the funds were directly used for.

In 2019, the advocacy fund reported a revenue of almost $53 million and over 98% of its revenue came from donations, according to tax documents from 2019, its most recent filing year. The fund granted close to $9.8 million to mostly left-wing nonprofits in 2019, including $3 million to the League of Conservation Voters and $150,000 to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, tax records show.

Tides Advocacy Fund did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Chispa. The Tides Center did not respond, nor did CUPR.

Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, a conservative education group, told the DCNF it’s evident Berkley is trying to “avoid any public accountability” for its payment to the advocacy fund.

“It would be hard to find a surer example of the malfeasance of American public universities that are supporting groups that are actively and even viciously attempting to undermine civic and public order in the United States,” said Wood.

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