Despite promoting herself in the Florida media in recent weeks as a staunch opponent of so-called political “dark money,” State Representative Anna Eskamani and at least one member of her immediate family appears to be rolling in it. The Orlando-area Democrat has shown she is not afraid to pummel anyone she disagrees with in the media, especially over the influence of corporate contributions, but state records show over a two year period that Eskamani collected more than $191,000 in salary from a left-wing nonprofit group that collects millions of dollars in unsourced “dark money” and funnels it to other leftist groups across the country – including Florida.
Eskamani’s employer, a New York City nonprofit called NEO Philanthropy, has financial ties to Florida that are as deep as they are dark. According to Influence Watch, “the group serves as a clearinghouse for left-of-center causes.” By definition, clearinghouse groups act as intermediaries to exchange checks or cash between donors and recipients. And under IRS rules, they aren’t required to report their donors publicly – the very definition of a dark money group.
According to its most recently filed Form 990, the tax exempt disclosure form that all federal nonprofits are required to file, NEO collected $105 million in 2019 alone. That year, the group paid Eskamani a salary of $91,000.
Yet the source of all those dollars – some of it flowing to Eskamani and her family – remains a mystery, because NEO Philanthropy isn’t required to disclose who donated to the group.
The financial picture is equally murky for Eskamani’s twin sister, a registered lobbyist working in Tallahassee, who also benefited financially – at least in part – from NEO’s dark money largesse. Ida Eskamani is listed as the registered lobbyist for Florida Rising, a left-wing activist group that advocates for racial and social justice. Florida Rising lists the Florida Immigrant Coalition as one of its lobbying clients, and NEO Philanthropy pumped more than a quarter of a million dollars into the Florida Immigrant Coalition in 2019, and other six figure sums to similar Florida groups with ties to the Eskamanis, according to federal records. Some of the cash from NEO was paid to Ida Eskamani in the form of lobbying fees.
Notably, Florida Rising had its federal income tax exempt status revoked by the IRS in 2017 because the organization failed to file a form-990 for three consecutive years. As of November 2020, the group had not been reinstated, but appears to still be active in Florida.
NEO Philanthropy’s 2019 filings also show that it funneled more than $1 million to progressive political organizations in Florida, all of them channeled to hyper-partisan left wing environmental groups like the Bullsugar Alliance and Friends of the Everglades, activist LGBT groups like Equality Florida, and racial and social justice groups like New Florida Majority and others. All of those groups are frequent political allies of the Eskamanis.
NEO’s federal filings for the 2020 election cycle were not available, so it remains unclear how much cash flowed into Florida from NEO in the 2020 election year. State records show Anna Eskamani’s salary jumped to $100,000 during the year, but no further information is available.
Ida Eskamani did not respond to an email seeking comment for this story.
Anna, however, initially insisted late Wednesday that NEO Philanthropy was not engaged in political activities or fundraising. “NEO Philanthropy is c3 established in the 1980s and is not political,” she emailed to The Capitolist, a copy of which she also posted to Twitter.
But after some social media users challenged her, she backtracked, distancing herself from NEO’s contributions to Florida political organizations, including those that flowed to her sister, Ida.
“Again, don’t manage any of those portfolios but if they want to fund local nonprofits who are delivering essential services that’s [their] right. But all of that is c3 — it’s not political funding & it’s NOT FUNDING FAKE CANDIDATES LOL,” she posted during a flurry of social media activity within an hour of learning that The Capitolist was ready to publish this story.
Despite the backtracking and denial of knowledge, Eskamani lists her job title as NEO’s “state strategic advisor,” a role that presumably would have significant insight and influence into how NEO invests its financial resources in Florida.
NEO Philanthropy did not respond to an emailing seeking more information about the source of its donations.