Working Partnerships USA, the labor-aligned charity and lobbying group headed by former San Jose vice mayor Cindy Chavez, yesterday released its most recent Internal Revenue Service Form 990, after eight days of refusing a request to view the document.
Working Partnerships communications director Jody Meacham stalled San Jose Inside’s multiple inquiries, saying, “GuideStar is the vehicle we use to disseminate this information to the public.” The website’s Working Partnerships page is still missing the Form 990 filing for 2011.
The Washington, D.C.-based organization that promotes accountability and transparency in the nonprofit community, however, took issue with Working Partnerships’ stonewalling. “Providing a 990 on request is the bare minimum,“ said GuideStar’s Lindsay Nichols. “They must send it to you, upon request, within a ‘reasonable amount of time,’ which is typically within a 24-hour time period.“
Finally, after saying he needed to meet with Chavez and the nonprofit’s auditor to make sure they were legally required to provide the documents, Meacham on Thursday emailed an attachment of the 2011 filing.
The public document shows that WPUSA revenues have declined from the early 2000s, when questions were first raised about its commingled relationship with the politically-active South Bay Labor Council, with whom it has shared offices and staff. During its peak in 2002, WPUSA had annual revenues of $3 million.
Revenues declined to $1.25 million in 2010, the year after Chavez took over as executive director. The 501c3 nonprofit rebounded in 2011, due to a half-million dollar increase in grants and a $373,290 jump in program revenue.
Out of its $1.9 million budget in 2011, WPUSA spent more than $1 million, or 56 percent, on compensation, benefits and taxes for the 27 people it employed.
Chavez received $74,587 in compensation and benefits for 15 hours of weekly time with WPUSA. She announced in December that she was going full time with Working Partnerships, which would place her total compensation around $200,000 if she is being paid at the same rate she was paid in 2011 for part-time work.
The organization also employs former San Jose budget director Bob Brownstein and county Democratic Party chair Steve Preminger.
WPUSA also paid out 25 percent of its budget for “research services“ ($469,145) and 9 percent on grants to individuals dislocated by the economy.
Non-profit 501c3 organizations are prohibited by law from supporting or opposing political candidates, but may engage in lobbying or support ballot measures. According to its website, “Working Partnerships was a key member of the Raise the Wage San Jose coalition for Measure D.” The 2012 measure passed and will raise San Jose’s minimum wage to $10 per hour in March.
WPUSA shares offices, staff and equipment with the South Bay Labor Council, which grooms and endorses candidates for political office and actively participates in election campaigns. SBLC traditionally has had a much smaller budget than WPUSA. A 2004 story in Metro documented hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from Working Partnerships to the South Bay Labor Council, which at that time had just one-quarter of the revenues as WPUSA.
According to its Form 990s, WPUSA paid $113,271 to SBLC in 2003 for “shared managerial, accounting, communications, and administrative costs.” and “office space sublease.” Another $50,000 was paid to Newport Avenue Group “an organization affiliated with a board member”—presumably WPUSA founder Amy Dean, who owned a large home on the Willow Glen street before moving to Chicago.
In 2004, WPUSA paid $94,842 to SBLC for “shared managerial, accounting, communications, and administrative costs.” and “office space sublease.” And in 2005, the amount was $133,803. Recent figures are not available because the nonprofit declines media interviews and no longer discloses the inter-organization payments on its federal filings.
In 2006, the year Cindy Chavez ran for mayor, WPUSA went deeply in the red. After building up a $1.9 million war chest, WPUSA exceeded its revenues by $651,504, spending $1.75 million, including $113,152 on consultants and contractors. $169,661 on “policy & research expense” and $130,219 on “advertising and promotion.”
Expenses dropped by $134,264 in the year following the election. Costs rose yearly after that as the next mayoral election approached, peaking at more than $2 million in mayoral election year 2010—despite WPUSA revenues of only $1.25 million—resulting in a loss of more than $800,000. Expenses once again dropped after the 2010 election ended, declining by more than $150,000. (The 2002 vote, in which Ron Gonzales was re-elected mayor and labor-aligned Terry Gregory’s victory sealed labor’s control of the San Jose City Council, also showed a pattern of heavy spending, followed by a post-election reduction.)
Working Partnerships’ funders include a Who’s Who of top foundations (click name to view each foundation’s website):
• Blue Shield of California Foundation
• California Wellness Foundation
• David Lucile & Packard Foundation
• French American Charitable Trust (FACT)
• Friedman Family Foundation
• Health Trust
• James Irvine Foundation
• Marguerite Casey Foundation
• McKay Foundation
• Mitchell Kapor Foundation
• Nathan Cummings Foundation
• New World Foundation
• Public Welfare Foundation
• San Francisco Foundation
• Silicon Valley Community Foundation
• Solidago Foundation
• Strategic Concepts in Organization and Policy Education
• Women’s Foundation of California
Non-profit organizations generally operate in a transparent fashion because their activities are taxpayer-subsidized through an Internal Revenue Service tax-exempt status. Taxpayers who give to a 501c3 may deduct any donations from their tax returns, which means the public is helping fund the organizations.
Working Partnerships 2011 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2010 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2009 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2008 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2007 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2006 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2005 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2004 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2003 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2002 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2001 Form 990
Working Partnerships 2000 Form 990
Working Partnerships 1999 Form 990
Working Partnerships 1998 Form 990