It looks like portland indymedia is about to come under the financial umbrella of a non-profit called Media Island. Media Island is a groovy enough organization and I have nothing against them, but I am opposed to portland indymedia coming under their umbrella. Attached below is the agreement that some people in portland indymedia want to sign that would make this financial arrangement a reality.
This document and the relationship it represents runs exactly counter to the independent and anti-authoritarian nature that indymedia espouses and embraces. It would essentially make portland indymedia owned by a group of people. No indymedia should be owned by any individual or group or board of directors. Indymedia belongs to everyone and to no one. I am afraid that this document will be used as an excuse to water down indymedia content and make the organization into a stale bureaucracy.
Keep indymedia free.
Keep it open.
Keep it independent.
Come to the portland indymedia general collective meeting on Sunday, April 28, at 6:00 p.m. at the CFA office on 16th and Clinton SE, and save portland indymedia from this proposal.
If you can't make it to the meeting, write to the portland indymedia general collective and register your disapproval of this proposal:
Basically, this proposal represents a fork in the road for portland indymedia.
One road -- accepting this financial sponsorship -- leads to:
* losing independence -- being answerable to another organization
* paying monetary dues to another organization
* follow IRS guidelines
* becoming more conservative in our editorial choices
* further bureaucraticization -- which is the last thing we need
* naming individuals as de facto representatives, which goes against a prior consensus forbidding just that. no one can represent indymedia. indymedia is more things and viewpoints and people than any one person could ever represent.
Here's a choice phrase from the document below: the MII Board of Directors is "the only body that legally retains overall authority over project activities." "project activities" here is "portland indymedia activities". Say what? The only body that legally retains overall authority over portland indymedia is a non-profit in Washington? This is ridiculous.
How this agreement could make portland indymedia editorial decisions more conservative:
If portland indymedia is under Media Island, even though we are not a 501(c)3 ourselves, we must abide by the IRS's 501(c)3 rules, which forbid:
* campaigning for a particular candidate or party
* lobbying for or against particular legislation
* not planning or carrying out illegal actions
I have more experience with politically-oriented 501(c)3s than I care to remember, and I have seen the hassle caused by these guidelines. The editorial committee will end up turn itself in knots trying to figure out how to phrase things in the center column so as to avoid the appearance of any of the above three.
Features current and past that would be questionable and have to be watered down or eliminated include: * May Day -- for encouraging an unpermitted march
* Tax Resistance -- for encouraging people not to pay their taxes
* Anti-farmworker Legislative Bill -- for encouraging people to call Kitzhaber to veto the bill
* Green Party or Nader features -- for giving props to particular political parties and candidates
* These are just very recent examples; think of all the features with similar themes or calls to action in them.
Much as some of us in the editorial group might pretend, just for appearances, that features on portland indymedia don't take a stand on the issues, we all know that they do. The features as a whole don't support only one solution or tactic of course, but often speak out quite strongly in favor of particular ones. There are many tactics that the features would never support, so there is no balance. The features are biased. And that's how I believe it should be. As educator Paolo Freire said, "In the struggle between the powerful and the powerless, those who claim to be neutral side with the powerful." portland indymedia is not netural and it shouldn't be. This proposal would encourage neutrality.
We must keep the open publishing newswire "open"
And that's only the features section. What about the very heart of Indymedia -- the open publishing newswire? Can it stay *open* if we have to abide by IRS guidelines? Or will we have to begin hiding more posts for fear of repercussions? Those in favor of this financial sponsorship proposal would assure you that such a thing could never happen. But one of the supporters already spoke in favor of a new editorial guideline (to hide advertising from the newswire if the editorial group decides to do so) because such a guideline would be looked upon favorably by a financial sponsor. No, I don't trust the people who say this arrangement won't affect editorial policy. I believe it will, and the results will be very un-indy. This is a very slippery slope, folks. Too slippery. It isn't worth it. There's not even any portland indymedia money to speak of to put under this 501(c)3 umbrella.
people who care for portland indymedia should be spending their creative and energetic resources on other things:
* encouraging people to post
* reporting news
* expanding beyond the internet
* raising cash to pay for a server to host portland and other indy sites
If all the time spent preparing and pushing this proposal had been spent doing the above, portland indymedia would be in a better place already, with a bigger audience, more participants, and more money. The other fork in this road leaves portland indymedia with the potential to become a more powerful tool for the oppressed, a better adversary to the powers that be, and a louder voice of independence.
I encourage everyone who appreciates the independent and anti-authoritarian nature of indymedia to attend the general collective meeting on Sunday and save portland indymedia from this proposal. The meeting is at the CFA office on 16th & Clinton SE at 6:00 p.m.
text of Media Island - portland indymedia agreement, with comments:
----- Original Message ----- From:
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com;
Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 4:53 PM
Subject: [PDX IMC editorial] Media Island Int'l Fiscal sponsorship agreement
> hey all, here is what Jimmy and I worked out to try and address the needs of our working relationship with Media Island International. This is open for discussion, both here on the listserves and at the collective meeting sunday, where we can hammer out any further details. If there are issues now though, I have arranged to talk with Jimmy again Friday noonish, so post your concerns if there are any. the percentage amount is left blank, as is the date for the meeting where we would agree to the signers of the contract and again hopefully we can agree on the check signers for the bank account. The percentage would ideally be 7% as I understand it.
> Media Island International (MII) & Portland Indymedia April 2002
I am against this 7%. I am against ANY % going to another organization. Will this be yet another item that comes out of fundraising money before cash is set aside for indymedia centers in the global south? Who needs the money more? Media Island? Or IMC Argentina, where they went through a near-rEvolution with only one digital camera?
> MII Fiscal Sponsorship Policy
> 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Umbrella provided to sponsored projects and organizations.
> & Agreement between Media Island International and
> PORTLAND INDYMEDIA
> 1. MII Organizational Purpose
> 2. Structure of MII / about Fiscal Sponsorship
> 3. MII's Rights & Responsibilities
> 4. Requesting MII's Umbrella
> 5. Project / Organization obligations/Requirements
> a. Banking
> b. Donations / Solicitation/Acknowledgement-Receipts
> c. Fundraising: Grant seeking, Foundations & Individuals
> d. Accountability / Accounting of funds / Reporting
> 6. Administrative Costs
> 7. Evaluation
> 8. Agreement
> > 1. MII Organizational Purpose
> Media Island International (MII) is a resource and networking center for individuals, organizations and movements working on social justice, economic democracy, ecological sustainability and peace. We gather, evaluate and distribute under-published information on critical issues at strategic times. We see that the eyes of the world are watching, and truth is getting harder and harder to hide. We are here to help provide tools for change, and to increase hope & understanding among people in all sectors of society about these issues.
> 2. Structure of MII / about Fiscal Sponsorship
> MII is a nonprofit corporation under the laws of the State of Washington, and is recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to which contributions made are tax-deductible. MII receives grants and contributions from foundations as well as individuals & others to support the operations of the organization to carry out its mission. From time to time, MII helps an existing or new project or organization by using the tax exempt status to allow grants from foundations and tax-deductible donations to support the work of the sponsored project. Projects are virtually autonomous on a day-to-day basis, because we have great confidence in the capabilities of individuals and groups to develop their own work. MII gives creative, results-oriented people the freedom to develop program ideas with a minimum of bureaucracy.
> > ( 2. Structure of MII / about Fiscal Sponsorship, continuedS )
> > Foundations can only grant money to organizations which have 501(c)(3) status. The IRS holds that a 501(c)(3) organization can distribute funds to organizations which have not, themselves, received IRS recognition of 501(c)(3) status, if certain steps are taken to insure that the funds are used only for charitable, educational or other 501(c)(3) purposes.
> > A few guidelines are set forth by the IRS:
> . * funds must be used for specific projects in furtherance of the sponsor's own exempt purposes;
> . * the sponsoring organizational must retain control and discretion as to the use of the funds;
> . * the sponsoring organization must maintain records establishing that the funds were used for section 501(c)(3) purposes.
> > Basically, the few activities restricted by the IRS for a 501(c)(3) are:
> . Not allowed to campaign for or against any candidate for political office;
> . Not able to lobby for or against specific legislation pending before legislative bodies;
> . No assets of a 501(c)(3) may be used for the direct profit or benefit of a private individual, corporation, or other party, except in reasonable compensation for services or goods supplied.
> > Accordingly, there are some requirements and an understanding which must be entered into to ensure appropriate knowledge and communication is shared between MII and the supported project/organization.
> 3. Requesting MII's Umbrella
> Organizations or individuals representing projects which support MII's mission may request fiscal sponsorship. Approval is granted or denied by the Board of Directors of MII. A request is made in writing, a presentation may be made describing the project/organization by the proponents or contact people, and questions are discussed with the Board or its designates. Notification of the decision will be given as soon as readily possible directly to the contact person.
> > 4. MII's rights & responsibilities
> MII wants to foster and stimulate good projects which also fulfill our mission. MII is bound by some easy to understand rules by the State of Washington and laws of the United States, most pertinently for this relationship, those of the IRS as reviewed above.
> MII has a responsibility to review and discuss the project overview and particulars with the contact people so each develop a mutual understanding of requirements and limitations of the financial and legal relationship both before and during the duration of the sponsorship. MII will do its best to maintain in good standing its 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. MII is ultimately responsible legally and financially for the work of its projects. In the event that a project engages in actions that threaten the viability of MII, MII may suspend a project until the matter is considered by the Board of Directors. MII has the right to revoke the fiscal sponsorship for good reason after due consideration and review of pertinent circumstances.
Did you catch that last bit there? "MII will do its best to maintain in good standing its 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. MII is ultimately responsible legally and financially for the work of its projects. In the event that a project engages in actions that threaten the viability of MII, MII may suspend a project until the matter is considered by the Board of Directors." So, portland indymedia would then take down features or even hide newswire items that might endanger the relationship with MII. Or worse yet, be like corporate media people, and not upload "questionable" features at all for fear of offending "the boss".
> > 5. Project/Organization Obligations / Requirements
> . Groups or individuals must be, for all general purposes, non-profit, educational, charitable, or scientific.
> . Projects must identify a single director as the responsible party with whom EINS communicates about routine business matters. MII recognizes the original person applying for project status as project director unless the director informs MII in writing of any change in responsibility.
Indymedia has grown into a global network of over 80 sites while at the same time being stongly anti-authoritarian. There is no leadership of Indymedia. Nobody owns it. I am against anyone being called a "project director" even if it is only a title with no authority. Titles have ways of creating their own authority and hierarchy, and we must avoid this.
>Also, projects may not shift its own goals significantly or take on subprojects that are significantly beyond the nature of its original goals without approval of the MII.
Whoah, whoah, whoah !! So how big of a change is significant enough that portland indymedia needs approval from MII? This sounds like a great way for skittish people within portland indymedia to stifle creativity, shoot down new ideas, and make portland indymedia into an overly-cautious, conservative organization.
> . Groups or individuals must provide to MII their by-laws or an equivalent statement of purpose with their request for fiscal sponsorship or soon thereafter.
> . Activities funded must fit within the IRS guidelines for non-profit activities; i.e., they must be educational, charitable, or scientific. No activities funded through tax-deductible sources may plan or carry out illegal actions.
There it is. portland indymedia activities "must fit within the IRS guidelines for non-profit activities". So, we are going to let the U.S. Government set the standard of behavior that portland indymedia has to live up to? No thanks. Is anyone actually in favor of this?
> . Sponsored organizations/projects will submit a basic budget as their plans develop.
> . Projects are encouraged to form an advisory board to assist project activities. Such advisory committees should not be confused with the MII Board of Directors, which is the only body that legally retains overall authority over project activities.
> "Advisory board". Great. That's all we need at portland indymedia. More bureaucracy. And people with titles raised up above other people. My answer to this is: NO. And worse yet -- the MII Board of Directors is "the only body that legally retains overall authority over project activities."
> > 5a. Banking
> MII & Portland Indymedia have agreed to have a bank account in Portland Indymedia's name sponsored by MII as the fiscal sponsor of the project and of the bank account. This account will bear the tax-identification number of MII (91-1514384), and will have signers from Portland Indymedia.
> A single checking account is recommended for simplicity and funds tracking.
> Conducting the day to day business of the project is the responsibility of the project coordinators and workers, including responsible handling of the funds in the project account. This includes maintaining good files and records. MII will not remove or disturb monies in the account of Portland Indymedia. Should the fiscal sponsorship agreement be dissolved, any monies owed to either party shall be paid upon dissolution of the bank account.
> 5b. Donations / Solicitation / Acknowledgement-Receipts
> In some instances a cover letter from MII, stating that Portland Indymedia is a project fiscally sponsored by MII, is in order. Those instances may include requests to foundations for large grants, etc. Portland Indymedia is required to give receipts to donors for any donated items (goods & services. Receipts for financial contributions, especially for those donors who request a tax-deduction, are also the responsibility of Portland Indymedia. Copies are to go to the donor, kept on file with Portland Indymedia, and another kept for reporting to MII.
> Receipts should have a note of thanks, listing the date, any check number, item/s or amounts donated, condition of, estimated fair-market value of any goods listed in dollars, the project's contact information, Media Island's name and tax ID #, and the donor's name and contact information.
> > 5c. Fundraising: Grant seeking, Foundations & Individuals
> MII has several projects underway. Some may be applying for grants from a foundation we are already involved with, and there is usually a limit on the number of grants a 501(c)(3) can apply for to a foundation in any year. The sponsored org/project will provide MII with a list of potential funding sources when identified, and before the grant application is submitted. The MII Board or designated committee will review the list of potential funders and approve a final list available for approach by the sponsored entity. All proposals must be must be reviewed and approved by the MII Board of Directors and a letter confirming fiscal sponsorship will be attached to each sponsored proposal. It is not anticipated that this review will impede the ability or speed of getting support, but to coordinate well with activities of MII.
> 5d. Accountability / Accounting of funds / Reporting
> Sponsored entities are accountable to MII and must submit bi-annual (2x/yr) reports to MII, short narrative and basic financial, and must maintain for review receipts of all expenses under the sponsored monies. Financial reports can be simple, yet need to be detailed and provided to MII in paper &/or digital format (Excel &/or Quicken are adequate.) Track money in, money out- and have records reflecting to whom, for what, and keep receipts for expenditures, track reimbursements made to individuals, and get any letters, verifications, acknowledgements, &/or contracts with any individuals who receive MII/project funds.
> 6. Administrative Costs
> MII charges a sliding scale percentage fee as an overhead charge on project revenue received each month, which helps to cover costs in supporting MII's varied work. Typically the range is %5-%15.
> In this case, the percentage amount agreed to is ___ %. This amount is ___ % of the gross donation monies received into the Portland Indymedia bank account, and is to be paid out to MII quarterly.
Hold it right there. This is ridiculous. So, we're paying these people? Forget it. There's much better things to do with portland indymedia money than this.
> 7. Evaluation
> An evaluation of the project and status of sponsorship will be conducted after 90 days. A final evaluation will be conducted at the conclusion of the sponsored project, or annually if the project is ongoing.
Oh cool. There's an out. So those of us who are against this still have time to sabotage the whole thing by putting up features like the ones we've already been uploading. Who do I contact at Media Island to inform them that portland indymedia is not living up to its end of the deal and that we are endangering their non-profit status and they need to drop us like a hot rock?
> > 8. Agreement by project representatives to have project fiscally sponsored by MII
> > The Portland Indymedia group has read the above information on project sponsorship and agreed at a meeting on ________ to follow the above procedures as an MII project. We are satisfied that all of our questions about sponsorship have been answered to date, and that we will consult the staff or Board of MII for further clarification as needed. This agreement may be augmented by further agreements between the parties. This agreement may be dissolved by either party upon consultation with the other. Any such agreement to dissolve this relationship will be made by the groups themselves using decision making processes each group has, and as such cannot be done by individuals without authorization by the group.
Well y'all who are supporting this proposal don't have my authorization for jack shit, but the current decision making process gives me no voice in the process unless I truck up to portland from eugene for this meeting. I can't make it (work the next day), but I've invited some friends to show up.
> Project: Portland Indymedia
> > Organizational Contacts:
> > Signatures: ______________________________________________
> > Date: ______________________________________________
> END> ATTACHMENT part 2 application/mac-binhex40 name=PDX_IMC_Fiscal_Agmt.doc
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