Nike, Inc. is reportedly making a $50,000 donation to ACT UP NY, which will then pass the donation to two nonprofit groups that provide political cover to elected officials. Photo Illustration/Progress New York

ACT UP directs Nike donations to nonprofit groups, which provide political coverage to elected officials

Nominating or passing-through donations between advocacy groups enmesh political agendas that undermine the autonomy of advocacy groups.

By Progress New York Staff

At a recent meeting, members of the activist group, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, voted to recommend that the sports wear conglomerate Nike, Inc., donate $50,000 to two key nonprofit groups doing youth advocacy work in New York political circles : VOCAL-NY, a membership group that advocates for its low-income members, and New Alternatives, a service provider to homeless LGBTQ youth. The recommendation has been met with some controversy, according to information obtained by Progress New York, since the large donation is being made to groups that have staff payrolls.

A member of ACT UP refused to answer a press inquiry for this report.

Nonprofit groups doing advocacy work in New York political circles never act to remove from elected office failed politicians.

ACT UP NY sign : “AIDS Profiteer” ; source : International Center of Photography

The two groups to which ACT UP has recommended that Nike, Inc., make its donation have a history of advocating for more resources for the homeless. Under the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), homelessness reached a post-Great Depression high in 2015, and has continued to climb. One of the two groups nominated to receive the Nike, Inc., money, VOCAL-NY, staged protests in 2015 against Mayor de Blasio, but, once Mayor de Blasio faced reëlection in 2017, no establishment nonprofits challenged Mayor de Blasio. New York City is also short several thousand beds to accommodate LGBTQ homeless youth, for example, but no nonprofit groups exert political pressure on New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea), who is openly gay and who is the second-most powerful politician in New York City Government, to provide the full resources to end LGBTQ homelessness, which is within his power and authority.

In the past, Health GAP, a group then led by one of VOCAL-NY’s co-founders, offered to serve as ACT UP’s 501(c)(3) sponsor, allowing ACT UP to receive and spend foundation monies, according to information obtained by Progress New York. Nonprofit groups see ACT UP as an attractive fiscal sponsee, because of its storied accomplishments in the area of HIV/AIDS treatment and advocacy.

In 2017, ACT UP shared $5,000 that was raised at a benefit by Credit Suisse, the global investment bank and private wealth management corporation, with another nonprofit group, the Treatment Action Group. That donation created a conflict of interest, since ACT UP has, in the past, targeted Wall Street banks for corruption and for creating economic inequality.

As previously autonomous, direct-action advocacy groups, such as ACT UP, are enmeshed with the economics of establishment nonprofits groups subject to political pressure, such as VOCAL-NY and Health GAP, a pall has been spread over New York’s fragile movements for social equality and reform. New York City has trailed second- and third-tier cities in the banning of police participation in LGBTQ pride parades, for example. On non-LGBTQ issues of political reform, New York City has lagged other second- and third-tier cities in the change of its police leadership in the Black Lives Matter era and in the election of Democratic Socialists to public office. When political change has come, it showed up in the resource deserts of Queens and the Bronx, and not in the otherwise civically-engaged boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, which are resource-rich.