State Representative Anna Eskamani and her sister are at the heart of a black money influence operation in Florida
Despite portraying herself in the Florida media in recent weeks as a vocal opponent of so-called “dark money” politics, the state’s representative Anna Eskamani and at least one member of his immediate family appears to be riding in it. The Orlando-area Democrat has shown she’s not afraid to hit out at anyone she disagrees with in the media, especially about the influence of corporate contributions, but the archives of state show over a two-year period that Eskamani collected more than $191,000 in salary from a left-wing nonprofit that collects millions of dollars in unsourced “dark money” and funnels it to d other left-wing groups across the country – including Florida.
Eskamani’s employer, a New York City nonprofit called NEO Philanthropy, has financial ties to Florida as deep as they are dark. According to Watch of Influence, “the group serves as a clearinghouse for left-of-center causes.” By definition, clearing groups act as intermediaries to exchange checks or cash between donors and recipients. And under IRS rules, they’re not required to publicly declare their donors — the very definition of a black money group.
According to his last filing Form 990, the tax-exempt declaration form that all federal nonprofits are required to complete, NEO raised $105 million in 2019 alone. That year, the group paid Eskamani a salary of $91,000.
Still, the source of all those dollars — some of which goes to Eskamani and his family — remains a mystery, as 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 has also benefited financially – at least in part – from NEO’s black money largesse. Ida Eskamani is listed as a 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 injected more than a quarter million dollars into the Florida Immigrant Coalition in 2019, and other six-figure sums to groups relatives from Florida with ties to the Eskamanis, according to federal records. Some of NEO’s money went 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 seem still be active in Florida.
NEO Philanthropy filings in 2019 also show that it funneled more than $1 million to progressive political organizations in Florida, all funneled to hyper-partisan left-leaning 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 these groups are frequent Politics allies from Eskamanis.
NEO’s federal filings for the 2020 election cycle were unavailable, so it’s unclear how much money was paid to Florida by NEO in the 2020 election year. The State Archives show that Anna Eskamani’s salary increased to $100,000 during the year, but no other information is available.
Ida Eskamani did not respond to an email seeking comment on this story.
Anna, however, first insisted on Wednesday evening that NEO Philanthropy was not engaged in political activities or fundraising. “NEO Philanthropy is c3 created in the 1980s and is not political,” she emailed to The Capitolist, of which she also posted a copy on Twitter.
But after some social media users challenged her, she backtrack, distancing himself from NEO’s contributions to political organizations in Florida, including those passed on to his sister, Ida.
“Again, don’t run any of these portfolios, but if they want to fund local nonprofits that provide essential services, that’s [their] to the right. But this is all c3 – this is NOT political fundraising and this is NOT FAKE CANDIDATE FUNDING LOL,” she posted during a flurry of social media activity less than a year ago. hour after learning that The Capitolist was ready to publish this story.
Despite the backtracking and denial of knowledge, Eskamani lists his title as NEO’s “State Strategic Advisor”, a role that would presumably have significant insight into and influence over how NEO invests its financial resources in Florida.
NEO Philanthropy did not respond to an email requesting more information about the source of its donations.