Millions mistakenly raised for Black Lives Matter group not associated with movement
© Bonnie Cash

Millions of dollars were mistakenly raised for a Black Lives Matter group that is not associated with the well-known movement, BuzzFeed News reported Monday.

The Black Lives Matter Foundation raised at least $4.35 million in the first weeks of June, according to BuzzFeed News estimates. The foundation is actually a Santa Clarita, Calif.-based charitable organization with one paid employee, founder Robert Ray Barnes, a 67-year-old music producer in Los Angeles. 

Barnes told BuzzFeed News that his foundation doesn’t “have anything to do with the Black Lives Matter Global Network.”

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According to its most recent public tax filings from 2017, the foundation aims to “use our unique and creative ideas to help bring the police and the community closer together to save lives.” 

A Black Lives Matter spokesperson told The Hill that the entities are “two completely separate organizations,” adding that Barnes’s foundation “has nothing to do with us.”

“The Santa Clarita group is improperly using our name,” the spokesperson said. “We intend to call them out and follow up.”

The Black Lives Matter movement, formally registered as the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. in 2017 in Delaware, has a different approach to police relations by promoting the defunding of police and the redistribution of that money to black communities.

But Barnes said “no one owns the concept,” adding that, as a black man, he has had painful encounters with police, including the 2011 death of his wife’s ex-husband allegedly involving Los Angeles police.

Barnes declined to tell the news outlet how much his foundation has raised but said he plans to use the money for “prototypes” for community and police bonding, including “Community Organized Programs” such as an annual buffet dinner. His 2017 tax filing indicated almost $300,000 had been raised in donations that year.

Benevity, a fundraising platform used by corporations such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Dropbox, reported raising $4 million between May 31 and June 7 for the foundation, the company’s founder, Bryan de Lottinville, told BuzzFeed News. 

The company reportedly at first added a disclaimer to the Black Lives Matter Foundation’s page before deactivating it on June 7.

A Benevity spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the funds have not been distributed "per our standard vetting and disbursement process."

GoFundMe told The Hill that 180 campaigns have raised $350,000 for the Black Lives Matter Foundation and that GoFundMe has put holds on all of the funds. 

“GoFundMe placed all funds on hold and we are working with PayPal and the campaign organizers to ensure all of the money raised is transferred to the Black Lives Matter movement via their fiscal sponsor,” the statement read. 

The platform uses the PayPal Giving Fund database, which listed the Black Lives Matter Foundation, because it is an IRS-registered charity, a PayPal spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. Barnes registered his organization in May 2015

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"A number of donors have recently given to PayPal Giving Fund in support of the Black Lives Matter movement by making donations through one of our platform partners," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "We are diligently looking into the matter and working with the donors, our partners, campaign organizers and charities involved to ensure that the funds are granted as quickly as possible."

The company declined to tell BuzzFeed News how much money had been raised for the foundation because it was included in the database.

The phrase Black Lives Matter started as a hashtag in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman and gained popularity. At first, the movement did not have centralized leadership.

—Updated on June 16 at 3:11 p.m.