Non-profit

Turning Point USA

Website:

www.tpusa.com/

Location:

Phoenix, AZ

Tax ID:

80-0835023

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $8,288,866
Expenses: $8,343,094
Assets: $1,838,419

Formation:

2012

President:

Charlie Kirk

Type:

Conservative student group

Turning Point USA (TPUSA) is an ostensibly student-based right-of-center organizing and advocacy group which claims to have a presence on over 2,500 campuses,[1] though its figures have been disputed. [2] The organization particularly focuses on culture-war issues and has attracted much controversy on college campuses.

TPUSA primarily organizes events on college campuses to promote right-of-center policies and cultural values. The organization has challenged speech restrictions and censorship on college campuses to combat what it views as the suppression of conservative voices in academia. It is known for its “Professors Watchlist” which collects allegations of college professors discriminating against students and engaging in far-left activism. TPUSA holds several annual national conferences. In 2018 and 2019, major TPUSA events were held at then-President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club and featured Donald Trump Jr.

TPUSA was founded in 2012 by Charlie Kirk while he was in high school, with support from marketing entrepreneur William Montgomery. During the 2016 presidential election, TPUSA exploded in popularity and emerged as the leading student group favoring Trump’s election in the United States. Kirk spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention and was the chairman of Students for Trump. [3]

In 2018, Kirk founded Turning Point UK, a British offshoot of the organization. In May 2019, Kirk founded Turning Point Action, an independent political advocacy group.

Culture War College Tour

In 2019, Turning Point USA launched the “Culture War College Tour” a lecture circuit to promote free speech and combat discrimination against conservatives on college campuses which featured Donald Trump Jr.; wife Lara Trump, wife of President Trump’s son Eric; and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). [4]

Numerous events were protested by the “Groyper Army,” the name for supporters of Nick Fuentes, a far-right political activist who has been associated with the racist and anti-Semitic “alt-right” faction. Fuentes led the protest to criticize TPUSA for being insufficiently conservative and “betraying” President Donald Trump by supporting liberal immigration policies and the state of Israel (despite the Trump administration’s staunchly pro-Israel record). Fuentes’s supporters mobbed Q&A events to repeatedly ask speakers about these policy issues. [5]

Controversies

Recognition on College Campuses

In July 2015, Hagerstown Community College blocked the establishment of a Turning Point USA chapter, allegedly due to redundancy with another club. The attempted chapter leader sued the university and Hagerstown settled the following year by changing its club registration policy and permitting the establishment of the chapter. [6]

In April 2016, the Drake University Student Senate blocked recognition of a TPUSA chapter. That year, 26 student organizations were approved and only one other club besides TPUSA was blocked. [7]

In February 2017, the Santa Clara University student government voted to block the establishment of a TPUSA chapter. The TPUSA leader appealed the decision to the student court, which upheld the decision. The TPUSA leader then appealed to the university administration, which overturned the decision and recognized the TPUSA chapter. [8]

In January 2018, the student union of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute voted to block the establishment of a TPUSA chapter. [9]

In April 2019, the student government of Texas State University voted to ban TPUSA from campus for allegedly creating a hostile learning environment and using intimidation tactics. However, the university clarified that the student government did not have the authority to ban student organizations, and the school’s TPUSA chapter remained operational. [10]

Finances

TPUSA has been repeatedly accused of financial impropriety. Before his death in 2020, co-founder William Montgomery received numerous contracts totaling millions of dollars from TPUSA to handle printing, payroll, and fundraising expenses. TPUSA’s accounting firm was also discovered to have ties to Montgomery, which called into question its independence, while critics claimed the arrangement may have violated nonprofit financial reporting standards. Kirk and Montgomery both denied that the connection between Montgomery and the accounting firm was meaningful. [11]

Political advocacy

TPUSA has been accused of engaging in activity that supports political candidates in violation of its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Liberal activist journalist Jane Mayer of the New Yorker alleged that during the 2016 election, TPUSA employees coordinated with the presidential campaigns and associated PACs of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). [12]

During the 2020 election, TPUSA was considered the largest pro-Trump youth group in the US. Though most of the organization’s direct support of President Trump was handled through Turning Point Action, the group was criticized for overstepping its charitable bounds. In Fall 2020, TPA was discovered to have paid teenagers through its marketing firm to use real and fake social media accounts to promote thousands of posts created by TPUSA that appeared to support the re-election of then-President Trump. In September 2020, Facebook banned 200 Facebook accounts, 55 Facebook pages, and 76 Instagram accounts linked to the campaign. Twitter later banned 262 similar accounts. [13]

COVID Restriction Civil Disobedience

In January 2021, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked the IRS to investigate TPUSA for violating its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status by hosting two large events in Palm Springs, Florida that disobeyed the city’s COVID-19 regulations. One event was held in the Mar-a-Lago Club, a beach resort owned by former President Trump. [14]

Young America’s Foundation Memo

In May 2018, a leaked internal memo distributed within the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), another conservative youth group, revealed that YAF was discouraging its members from associating with TPUSA. The memo accused TPUSA of falsely claiming credit for joint TPUSA-YAF events, making false claims about its membership size, associating with racist organizations, and of illegally obtaining and using a Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) membership list. [15]

Soon after, YAF revealed that the memo was leaked by TPUSA personnel. TPUSA staff members then corroborated many of the memo’s claims. [16]

Funding

In 2018, TPUSA raised over $28 million in revenue, compared to $10.8 million the previous year. [17]

Turning Point USA is funded by numerous right-of-center foundations and big Republican donors. TPUSA received $275,000 from the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation, the Rauner Family Foundation (run by former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R)) gave $150,000, the Foglia Family Foundation gave $210,000, and the Marcus Foundation gave $72,500. TPUSA has also received smaller donations from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Michael and Andrea Leven Family Foundation, the Huizenga Foundation, the Mike Miller Foundation, Dunn’s Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking, the Einhorn Family Foundation, and Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation (run by the in-laws of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos), the Gianforte Family Foundation (run by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R)), the Thomas Patrick Morrison Foundation, and the Family Taxpayer’s Foundation. [18]

In addition to traditional funding, other organizations sponsor TPUSA events, usually within the range of $5,000-10,000. Sponsors have included the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Reason Foundation, the Foundation for Economic Education, PragerU, the Job Creators Network, the Leadership Institute, and the Generation Opportunity Institute. [19]

In April 2020, TPUSA announced that it was turning down $1.2 million in debt relief granted by the federal government through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a component of the government’s economic relief policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. [20]

References

  1. “About TPUSA.” TPUSA. Accessed January 26, 2021. https://www.tpusa.com/about. ^
  2. “YAF Memo: Advising Our Students About TPUSA.” Young Americans for Freedom. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.yaf.org/news/yaf-memo-advising-our-students-about-tpusa/. ^
  3. “Our Founder.” TPUSA. Accessed January 26, 2021. https://www.tpusa.com/meetthefounder. ^
  4. Coaston, Jane. “Why alt-right trolls shouted down Donald Trump Jr.” Vox. November 11, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/11/11/20948317/alt-right-donald-trump-jr-conservative-tpusa-yaf-racism-antisemitism. ^
  5. Coaston, Jane. “Why alt-right trolls shouted down Donald Trump Jr.” Vox. November 11, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/11/11/20948317/alt-right-donald-trump-jr-conservative-tpusa-yaf-racism-antisemitism. ^
  6. Baker, Tamela. “Hagerstown Community College settles suit over political club.” Herald Mail Media. May 12, 2016. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/local/hagerstown-community-college-settles-suit-over-political-club/article_dd2ce210-1899-11e6-82fc-ef5fc9483519.html. ^
  7. Charis-Carlson. “Conservative students at Drake challenge denial as organization.” Des Moines Register. April 26, 2016. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2016/04/26/conservative-students-drake-challenge-denial-organizaiton/83565586/. ^
  8. “Information on Turning Point USA.” Vice Provost for Student Life. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.scu.edu/vice-provost-for-student-life/statement-on-turning-point-usa/. ^
  9. “Turning Point denied Union affiliation.” The Polytechnique. January 24, 2018. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://poly.rpi.edu/news/2018/01/turning-point-denied/. ^
  10. Halaschak, Zachary. “Texas State University student government votes to ban Turning Point USA from campus.” Washington Examiner. April 9, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/texas-state-university-student-government-votes-to-ban-turning-point-usa-from-campus. ^
  11. Spies, Mike; Pearson, Jake. “At This Trump-Favored Charity, Financial Reporting Is Questionable and Insiders Are Cashing In.” ProPublica. July 21, 2020. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://poly.rpi.edu/news/2018/01/turning-point-denied/. ^
  12. Mayer, Jane. “A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks To Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity.” New Yorker. December 21, 2017. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-conservative-nonprofit-that-seeks-to-transform-college-campuses-faces-allegations-of-racial-bias-and-illegal-campaign-activity. ^
  13. Stanley-Becker, Isaac. “Facebook bans marketing firm running ‘troll farm’ for pro-Trump youth group.” Washington Post. October 10, 2020. Accessed January 27, 2021.    https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/10/08/facebook-bans-media-consultancy-running-troll-farm-pro-trump-youth-group/. ^
  14. Schwartz, Brian. “Senate Democrat urges IRS to review tax-exempt status of pro-Trump group Turning Point USA.” January 19, 2021. Accessed January 26, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/19/sheldon-whitehouse-urges-irs-to-probe-pro-trump-group-turning-point-usa.html. ^
  15. “YAF Memo: Advising Our Students About TPUSA.” Young America’s Foundation. June 14, 2018. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.yaf.org/news/yaf-memo-advising-our-students-about-tpusa/. ^
  16. “YAF Response to Manufactured Criticism of TPUSA Memo.” Young America’s Foundation. June 22, 2018. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.yaf.org/news/yaf-response-to-manufactured-criticism-of-tpusa-memo/. ^
  17. “Turning Point USA Form 990.” ProPublica. Accessed January 26, 2021. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/800835023/10_2020_prefixes_74-80%2F800835023_201906_990_2020100717356857. ^
  18. Kotch, Alex. “Who Funds Conservative Campus Group Turning Point USA? Donors Revealed.” International Business Times. November 28, 2018. Accessed January 26, 2021. https://www.ibtimes.com/political-capital/who-funds-conservative-campus-group-turning-point-usa-donors-revealed-2620325. ^
  19. Kotch, Alex. “Who Funds Conservative Campus Group Turning Point USA? Donors Revealed.” International Business Times. November 28, 2018. Accessed January 26, 2021. https://www.ibtimes.com/political-capital/who-funds-conservative-campus-group-turning-point-usa-donors-revealed-2620325. ^
  20. Mencimer, Stephanie. “Pro-Trump Student Group Funded by Billionaires Heroically Turns Down Bailout Money.” April 29, 2020. Accessed January 26, 2021. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/04/pro-trump-student-group-funded-by-billionaires-heroically-turns-down-bailout-money/. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 2014

  • 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
    2017 Jun Form 990 $8,288,866 $8,343,094 $1,838,419 $524,483 Y $8,248,059 $38,543 $2,925 $89,904 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $4,320,698 $3,874,250 $1,756,847 $388,496 Y $4,318,240 $1,822 $1,345 $51,692
    2015 Jun Form 990 $2,052,349 $1,358,254 $950,162 $28,259 N $2,052,060 $0 $289 $13,754 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $443,859 $242,999 $227,808 $0 N $443,859 $0 $0 $3,508 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990EZ $78,890 $51,942 $26,948 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Turning Point USA

    217 1/2 E ILLINOIS ST
    Phoenix, AZ 60439-3611