Non-profit

Tesseract

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

80-0378174

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2020):

Revenue: $753,138
Expenses: $996,689
Assets: $105,767

Formation:

2009

Founder:

Erica Payne

Tesseract (formerly Agenda Project Action Fund) is a left-of-center advocacy organization that runs advertising campaigns against Republican candidates. Its president and founder, Erica Payne, was a co-founder of the Democracy Alliance donor collective. [1]

Originally named Agenda Project, the group was renamed Agenda Project Action Fund in 2011 and Tesseract in 2016. Payne remains the principal officer as of the group’s 2019 tax filing with the IRS. [2]

In 2011, the leaders of Tesseract created a separate, 501(c)(3) organization called the Agenda Project. [3] It was renamed Tesseract Research Center in 2016. [4]

Background

Tesseract was founded as the Agenda Project in 2009 by Erica Payne, a co-founder of the left-of center donor collective Democracy Alliance. [5] [6]

Agenda Project was renamed Agenda Project Action Fund in 2011. [7] [8] According to OpenSecrets, Erica Payne was the president of the board, Charles Ledley was the secretary and Jamie Mai was the treasurer. [9] In 2010, the Action Fund had a revenue of $586,000 and expenses of $616,000; in 2011, it had a revenue of $584,000 and expenses of $697,000. [10] Agenda Project Action Fund paid for a webpage that hosted Agenda Project. [11]

Agenda Project Action Fund was then renamed Tesseract, Inc. in 2016 and as of 2022 was still named Tesseract. [12] [13] [14]

Activities

Agenda Project had a website until at least 2016, but as of 2022 its website was under construction and the group was using its fundraising page on left-of-center digital platform EveryAction as its official homepage. [15] [16] [17]

Tesseract states that its mission is “identifying the core values that best illustrate the essential differences between right-wing conservatives and decent Americans.” [18] It describes its method as “repeatedly strik[ing] the collective nerve of the American psyche and in so doing initiat[ing] a wholesale rejection of conservative principles,” thereby creating “an opening for the adoption of rational policies that encourage the decent, humane society that the overwhelming majority of Americans endorse.” [19]

Shortly after being founded, Tesseract launched an attack campaign on the Tea Party movement, a fiscally conservative political movement affiliated with members of the Republican Party that formed in response to the actions of former President Barack Obama. The attack campaign was called the “F*ck Tea” project and aimed, as Payne stated, “to dismiss the tea party and promote the progressive cause.” At the time, Payne claimed that Tesseract was working to release “products” in the coming months such as a “Glenn Beck Bowl Buddy (Beck B Scrubbin)” that supporters could buy as gag gifts. [20] Tesseract also sold t-shirts with “F*ck Tea” written prominently across the front and “Progress Is The Real American Party” written on the back. [21] Payne told the Daily Caller that the intention of the “F*ck Tea” campaign was to get people to “stop a minute, and really look at the ideas” of the Tea Party: “When you look at their world view, somebody has to say f—k that. That’s not the right direction to go at.” [22]

Some of Tesseract’s most successful campaigns are featured on its EveryAction webpage, such as its “Granny Off the Cliff” video, wherein a nameless figure representing a Republican congressman (likely intended to represent former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), whose name and congressional office phone number appeared at the end of the clip with encouragement to call him) wheels an elderly lady in a wheelchair to the edge of a cliff and pushes her off. The video was an attack on the Republican Party for its alleged mission to cut Medicare spending, and the YouTube upload of the advert includes clips of Republican politicians and conservative pundits expressing dismay over the ad’s content. [23] [24]

Another featured video was “Romney Girl,” a 2012 spoof music video set to the tune of pop song “Barbie Girl” criticizing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for allegedly keeping his money in offshore bank accounts and pursuing a policy agenda that favored the wealthy elite. [25] A third video, “Republican Cuts Kill,” blames Republicans for the outbreak of the Ebola virus allegedly due to Republicans’ spending cuts to the federal government’s health agency. [26] [27] At the release of the video, Payne stated, “Like rabid dogs in a butcher shop, Republicans have indiscriminately shredded everything in their path, including critical programs that could have dealt with the Ebola crisis before it reached our country.” [28]

Tesseract has a Twitter account that as of 2022 was largely inactive. [29] Its pinned tweet, tweeted from its account, read: “Trump’s budget cuts are killing people. #TrumpCutsKill” accompanying a video clip criticizing president Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and purportedly insufficient funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies. [30]

Funding

Tesseract has received funding from the Bauman Family Foundation. [31]

In 2019, Tesseract had a total revenue of $1,347,354, total expenses of $998,521, and $226,390 in net assets. [32]

Leadership

Erica Payne is the founder and leader of Tesseract. [33] She was the president until December 2015 when it was announced that Erik Altieri would succeed her. [34] However, Payne remained the principal officer of the group through the 2010s and as of 2019 she was still listed on tax filings as principal officer. [35]

References

  1. “Agenda Project.” EveryAction.com. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://secure.everyaction.com/Es8iYbK0HkO5NniIre7WMg2. ^
  2. Tesseract. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2019. Box F. ^
  3. Tesseract. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2011. Box C. ^
  4. Tesseract. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2016. Box C. ^
  5. “Agenda Project.” EveryAction.com. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://secure.everyaction.com/Es8iYbK0HkO5NniIre7WMg2. ^
  6. “Determination Letter – Tesseract Inc.” Internal Revenue Service. December 22, 2009. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/detailsPage?ein=800378174&name=TESSERACT%20INC&city=&state=&countryAbbr=US&dba=&type=DETERMINATIONLETTERS,%20COPYOFRETURNS&orgTags=DETERMINATIONLETTERS&orgTags=COPYOFRETURNS. ^
  7. Agenda Project Action Fund. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2011. Box C. ^
  8. “Organization Summary.” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/outside-spending/political-nonprofits/summary?id=800378174. ^
  9. [1] “Board Members: Agenda Project Action Fund.” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/outside-spending/political-nonprofits/board-members?id=800378174. ^
  10.  “Organization Summary.” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/outside-spending/political-nonprofits/summary?id=800378174. ^
  11. “Agenda Project.” EveryAction.com. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://secure.everyaction.com/Es8iYbK0HkO5NniIre7WMg2. ^
  12. Tesseract. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2016. Box C. ^
  13. Tesseract. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2019. Box C. ^
  14. “Tesseract.” ProPublica. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/800378174. ^
  15. “Agenda Project,” Library of Congress. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.loc.gov/item/lcwaN0007405/. ^
  16. “Agenda Project.” EveryAction.com. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://secure.everyaction.com/Es8iYbK0HkO5NniIre7WMg2. ^
  17. “Agenda Project.” AgendaProject.org. Accessed August 14, 2022. http://www.agendaproject.org/ ^
  18. “Agenda Project.” EveryAction.com. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://secure.everyaction.com/Es8iYbK0HkO5NniIre7WMg2. ^
  19. “Agenda Project.” EveryAction.com. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://secure.everyaction.com/Es8iYbK0HkO5NniIre7WMg2. ^
  20. Smith, Ben. “Dem group launches ‘F*ck Tea’ campaign.” Politico. August 12, 2010. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2010/08/dem-group-launches-f-ck-tea-campaign-028526. ^
  21. [1] Jessop, Steven. “Progressive Dems Launch Potty-Mouthed Campaign Against Tea Party.” Mediaite. August 12, 2010. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.mediaite.com/online/progressive-dems-launch-potty-mouthed-campaign-against-tea-party/. ^
  22. Treacher, Jim. “Maybe it stands for ‘Fun, Understanding, Caring, & Knowledge.’” Daily Caller. August 12, 2010. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://dailycaller.com/2010/08/12/maybe-it-stands-for-fun-understanding-caring-knowledge/. ^
  23. “Agenda Project.” EveryAction.com. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://secure.everyaction.com/Es8iYbK0HkO5NniIre7WMg2. ^
  24. “Granny Off The Cliff REEL” YouTube. February 11, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_VA_4_S6Hk. ^
  25. [1] “Romney Girl REEL.” YouTube, 17 March 2015. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR6bnPXmiwM. ^
  26. “Republican Cuts Kill REEL.” YouTube. February 11, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYJBwzSgqQI. ^
  27. “Agenda Project.” EveryAction.com. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://secure.everyaction.com/Es8iYbK0HkO5NniIre7WMg2. ^
  28. Bedard, Paul. “Democrats blame Ebola on Republicans.” Washington Examiner, 13 October 2014. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/democrats-blame-ebola-on-republicans. ^
  29. “The Agenda Project.” Twitter. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://twitter.com/agendaproject. ^
  30. “”Trump’s budget cuts are killing people” – The Agenda Project.” Twitter, 19 February 2020. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://twitter.com/agendaproject/status/1230178633056124929. ^
  31. “Agenda Project, The.” Bauman Foundation. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.baumanfoundation.org/grantee/218. ^
  32. Tesseract. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2019. Part I. Lines 8, 12, 22. ^
  33. Agenda Project.” EveryAction.com. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://secure.everyaction.com/Es8iYbK0HkO5NniIre7WMg2. ^
  34. Payne, Erica. “Agenda Project Announces New President.” DailyKos. December 11, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2022. https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/12/11/1459370/-Agenda-Project-Announces-New-President. ^
  35. Tesseract. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2019. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: December 1, 2009

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form 990 $753,138 $996,689 $105,767 $122,928 N $753,138 $0 $0 $155,527
    2019 Dec Form 990 $1,347,354 $998,521 $433,508 $207,118 N $1,347,354 $0 $0 $195,434
    2018 Dec Form 990 $805,469 $1,091,381 $222,179 $344,622 N $805,469 $0 $0 $139,996 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $888,193 $791,202 $339,622 $176,153 N $888,193 $0 $0 $101,923 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $669,199 $460,402 $250,204 $34 N $669,199 $0 $0 $167,912
    2015 Dec Form 990 $304,925 $266,079 $68,201 $26,828 N $304,925 $0 $0 $57,256 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $161,782 $138,865 $29,651 $27,124 N $161,782 $0 $0 $20,236 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $83,700 $80,577 $14,100 $34,490 N $83,700 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $118,477 $48,733 $13,095 $36,608 N $118,477 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $583,866 $697,049 $43,535 $132,918 N $589,000 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Tesseract

    1010 WISCONSIN AVE
    WASHINGTON, DC 20007-3603