Funding of nonprofit newspapers began to takeoff around 2016, although nonprofit news has existed for decades. The new revenue model of creating news reports from gifts has raised questions about the ethics of producing news from donations. “The ethics of taking grants from foundations and gifts from donors to produce news is still evolving and not without controversy” says a 2016 study into nonprofit newsrooms. [1] The question remains largely unanswered today and it has implications for El Paso because El Paso Matters dominates the investigative news reporting in the community’s public policy agenda. It has also been accused of illegal politicking in violation of its nonprofit status.

As we reported, a complaint has been filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) alleging that the nonprofit El Paso Matters and its CEO, Bob Moore have violated the prohibition of nonprofits engaging in political activity. Should the IRS find that El Paso Matters involved itself in the political process, it could cancel the nonprofit’s status likely shuttering El Paso Matters. This is not the first time a nonprofit newspaper has been shuttered in El Paso. Bob Moore has responded to the allegations in the IRS complaint by alleging that the complaint “is an attempt” to “use the courts to intimidate and suppress a news organization.” Moore added that “this is an assault on the First Amendment.”

It is important to clarify the difference between charity and philanthropy to better understand how non-profits operate. Charity is the response to an immediate need, for example a natural disaster. Philanthropy, on the other hand, is the planned giving for a specific purpose over a longer period. Over 75% of the charity in the United States came from individuals in 2005. This was followed by charitable foundations. [2] El Paso Matters is neither a charity nor a foundation, but rather an entity controlled by a foundation.

In 2016, the latest data available, there were about 1.5 million nonprofits registered with the IRS. Nonprofits in America contribute about $1 trillion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or 5.6% of the total GDP. [3] El Pasoans itemized about $155 million in charitable contributions on their tax returns in 2015. That averages to about $3,904 per itemizer. For comparison, itemizers in Fayetteville, Missouri itemized $18,561 on the high end and on the low end, Lewiston, Maine itemized $2,232 per itemizer. [4] El Paso’s philanthropic base trends below most of the nation. Philanthropic money tends to come from the wealthy because it allows the wealthy to take tax benefits.

El Paso Matters is not simply a nonprofit funded to provide news. It is part of a multi-layered group of nonprofits operating in El Paso whose funds largely come from El Paso’s wealthy families. At the top of the non-profit pyramid is the El Paso Community Foundation. The El Paso Community Foundation is best known for revitalizing and operating the Plaza Theater.

On the surface it may appear that El Paso Matters’ ownership is Bob Moore and its funding is simply a donation directly delivered to the publication. It is not. Funding for El Paso Matters flows from the individual making a tax-deductible donation to an entity. That entity then forwards the donation to the El Paso Community Foundation. The funding source may or may not have taken fees along the way and many times the donation is bundled alongside others making it more difficult to ascertain who the individual is that made the donation. The El Paso Community Foundation then comingles the donation with other donations, takes out a fee for services and administrative costs and then makes the balance available for El Paso Matters to fund operations. In for-profit operations like the El Paso Times and KVIA, consumers can readily see who may have influence over the news source by looking at who advertises along side the news. Who is funding El Paso Matters is not as clearly disclosed even when the donor’s list on the publication is accepted at face value. The reason is that the financial details are buried and opaque across various nonprofit shells that make tracing the money difficult.

The El Paso Community Foundation – who owns El Paso Matters – is one of two community foundations in El Paso. The second one is the Paso del Norte Community Foundation (PDNCF). According to the PDNCF website, the Paso del Norte Community Foundation was created in 2013. The PDNCF’s Strategic Plan 2025 states that their focus through 2025 are managing philanthropic activity in El Paso, investing in nonprofits, supporting community projects focused on “community response” and “resilience.” [5]

According to the Council on Foundations, community foundations are “grantmaking public charities that are dedicated to improving the lives of people in a defined local geographic area.” “They bring together the financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to support effective nonprofits in their communities. Community foundations vary widely in asset size, ranging from less than $100,000 to more than $1.7 billion,” the council explains. There are about 900 community foundations across America. In 2017, community foundations granted “an estimated $5.48 billion” to nonprofits operating in different market sectors including disaster, education, environment and health. [6]

There are over 30 types of nonprofits statuses that the IRS uses to designate a business entity as nontaxable. Most nonprofits are known as the 501(c)(3) “public charities” but there are other types that must deliver certain services to qualify as a nonprofit, for example childcare or homeowner associations. All have in common that they do not have shareholders who derive a profit from the corporation. All are prohibited from engaging in political activities, although one form, the 501(c)(4), or the “social welfare” type engages in lobbying efforts and is often criticized as a vehicle for political “dark money.” [7] The economic impact of nonprofits is $2 trillion annually and employ about 10% of America’s private workforce. Between 2000 and 2016 there was a surge of nonprofits registered with the IRS. New registrations jumped by about 75%. Nationally, over 97% of the nonprofits have budgets of less than $5 million with 55% reporting not having any expenses. [8]

The El Paso Community Foundation’s budget is in the three percent of the national average. How it uses its wealth to impact El Paso and the surrounding communities is important to understanding how public policy is managed in El Paso. Advocacy is the core of the mission of nonprofits and advocacy starts with the community’s news media. Because the foundation owns a news publisher, it is important to understand how it influences what the publication reports and ignores and its news reports.

What We Discovered

“The traditional major newspaper advertisers, like department stores and auto dealers, didn’t want to have a conversation about the work the City Hall reporter would be doing before they signed the [advertising] contract, because the reporter usually wasn’t going to be covering their business. But that’s exactly the kind of conversation donors to news nonprofits want to have about the reporter on campaign finance, or education reform, or environmental policy, before they decide whether the gift they’re being asked for fits their mission.” [9]

To understand the underlining issue with El Paso Matters it is necessary to navigate through a series of money flows between interlocking nonprofits and how the money can be used to influence nonprofit publications like El Paso Matters. The complexity of how nonprofits operate, their legal limitations and potential illegality must be examined and explained to understand how influence can be exerted. This complexity necessitates an explanation of several activities that creates a necessarily long article.

Because some readers may be interested in our findings without having to understand how we arrived at them, we have decided to layout our findings and then explain how we arrived at them.

The blueprint we developed demonstrates how likely it is that Woody Hunt influences what El Paso Matters reports and what Bob Moore focuses on. Our investigation reveals how nonprofits can be used to flow political dark money for political influence and the dangers that nonprofits pose by how they operate with the ineffective enforcement by the IRS. We address seemingly negative reporting on Woody Hunt, not only by El Paso Matters but also by the Texas Tribune, another nonprofit supported by Hunt, and how that reporting is selective in nature.

Our analysis looks at financial records following the money flows and the complex interlocking nonprofit entities that makes tracking how money flows to El Paso Matters opaque, masking direct correlations between their reporting and how they are funded.

In the for-profit realm, determining who owns a company and how much money it generates is easier to ascertain then in the nonprofit world that although are required to report how money flows through them, the reporting, when filed, is masked in the murkiness of interlocking companies flowing money without fully disclosing who and where the money came from.

One would assume that El Paso Matters publicly disclosing how much money it receives from the public is the end of the story. First, the public disclosures of how much money El Paso Matters reports is neither fully transparent because they lack context and are not the full story behind the money. There are many reasons for this, but their IRS disclosure, the only one to date, does not fully paint the financial picture for El Paso Matters.

The public financial details lack the context of what the requirements are for the grants they have publicly reported and what the restrictions are for them. More important is that many of the grants they recently reported lack the context of the expense to create the nonprofit entity able to accept such grants and the manpower and expense necessary to apply for the grants. These require significant funds. Thus, to understand how El Paso Matters and Bob Moore can be influenced on what it reports it is important to understand who provided the seed money to Moore to create El Paso Matters and apply for the grants that have generated more than $2 million in working capital.

Parsing through the list of significant contributions reported by El Paso Matters one finds names like Woody and Gayle Hunt, Raymond Telles, Martha Hood and the El Paso Community Foundation among the American Journalism Project, Microsoft and others innocuous entities. On the surface entities like Microsoft’s significant funding suggests that smaller contributors have little, if any, influence over what El Paso Matters reports. But the smaller donors play an important role in how Moore’s publication is funded. Woody Hunt has contributed about $60,000, according to El Paso Matters, which is about 3% of the total operating budget of El Paso Matters.

This is where context and the complexity of interconnected nonprofits as well as the timeline of contributions are important to understand. As readers will learn, Hunt’s contributions were seed money for El Paso Matters. The seed money necessary to apply for and land other significant grants. More important is how that funding relates to those who control El Paso Matters.

As readers will learn, Bob Moore does not control El Paso Matters directly. Control of El Paso Matters lies in a board whose members control El Paso Matters, some of whom are connected directly to the El Paso Community Foundation and others to Woody Hunt, and in at least one case, to both. Names like Raymond Telles who is likely the husband of Gwendolyn Pulido, a local attorney who sits on its board. Telles is listed as contributing $6,000 to El Paso Matters. Another is Julie Summerford Pearson who also sits on the board of the El Paso Community Foundation, which is credited with donating $170,000 to El Paso Matters. Pearson is married to Eric Pearson, the president and CEO of the El Paso Community Foundation. She is also a vice president at Woody Hunt’s company.

In this article we will explain how a 3% investment in El Paso Matters can be leveraged to influence the community narrative for political purposes by demonstrating the money flows, the dangers that nonprofits pose with dark political money and a demonstrable history of political influence in El Paso by the wealthy who seeded Bob Moore’s El Paso Matters and who still control the publication through the El Paso Community Foundation.

The El Paso Matters Complaint

Although the IRS complaint against El Paso Matters alleges impropriety by the non-profit, its implications go beyond Bob Moore’s publication. To understand its implications, it is important to understand the non-profit pyramid operating in El Paso and its many multi-layered dependent nonprofits to understand how philanthropic money flows in El Paso. Moreover, the complex shell of companies that make up El Paso’s philanthropy makes it difficult to track and understand how donations to nonprofits by wealthy individuals is used.

Nonprofits are normally viewed favorably as companies and individuals working towards the common good. The money used by nonprofits are not normally equated as problematic, it is after all, the wealthy contributing towards helping their community. However, as the case of Steve Bannon and The Build The Wall scheme shows, nonprofits can act criminally.

Steve Bannon was charged with conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in Manhattan last week. Bannon had been charged in 2020 by federal officials in the case, but federal prosecutors were forced to drop the charges after outgoing president Donald J. Trump issued a pardon to Bannon. [10] The 2019 New York indictment against Bannon lays out an alleged conspiracy where Bannon was paid illegally through the “transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars to various third-party entities, including entities controlled by Bannon and others.” The money laundering scheme relied on the transfer of funds between two non-profits, one deceptively receiving donations and then transferring the money illegally to another non-profit “controlled by Bannon.” [11]

Two nonprofits colluded to pay Bannon illegally, according to the indictment against Bannon and the non-profit created to build a wall with private donations along the U.S.-México border. In essence, Bannon was using his nonprofit as a shell company to funnel illegal donations to himself.

The structure and money flows of typical multi-layered companies involved in conspiracies must be understood to understand the flows of money to see if the money may be violating the law. In the case of Bob Moore and El Paso Matters, the community’s understanding and often repeated by Moore is that he “founded El Paso Matters in 2019 as a tax-exempt organization.” Left unsaid is who controls the non-profit, Bob Moore or someone else? To understand this, we need to examine the official documents behind El Paso Matters.

Who Controls El Paso Matters?

As a nonprofit, El Paso Matters does not have owners or shareholders in the traditional sense. Instead, a non-profit is governed by a board of directors. [12] The El Paso Matters website states in its About Us page that it is a 501(c)3 nonprofit governed by a Board of Directors comprised of Moore as the CEO and seven other individuals. The individuals are attorney Gwendolyn Pulido, Bill Clark, Cindy Convoy of WestStar Bank, Javier Camacho of the El Paso Electric company as well as accountant David Marcus. Additionally, there are two other individuals that readers should take note of. They are Martha Hood of the MCA Foundation and Julie Summerford Pearson [13] who works at Hunt Companies, [14] controlled by Woody Hunt and who is married to Eric Pearson. They are key to understanding who controls El Paso Matters. [15]

On the surface it looks like Bob Moore, along with seven other individuals, control and manage El Paso Matters. Exploring the regulatory documentation allows us to understand who and how El Paso Matters is controlled, and contrary to Moore’s public comments, it is not him.

El Paso Matters, Inc. was formed as a Texas corporation on March 26, 2019, by Bob Moore, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Moore reported in his publication that he “founded El Paso Matters in 2019.” El Paso Matters first published on February 17, 2020. Starting in April 2019, Bob Moore started raising money for El Paso Matters through the El Paso Community Foundation. The seed money to launch El Paso Matters was around $90,000, of which three donations accounted for almost 70% of the seed money. Arnold Ventures, run by a former Enron trader contributed $30,000. The El Paso Electric company donated $10,000 in seed money and the final $20,000 came from the El Paso Community Foundation. The El Paso Community Foundation will become the clear controller of El Paso Matters as we continue to explore El Paso Matters’ ownership. First, however, it is important to continue to explore other regulatory documents to clearly layout the complex controlling interest of El Paso Matters.

What The Tax Returns Show

As a non-profit organization, El Paso Matters is required to file IRS Form 990 detailing its funding and expenditures. These are available to the public. The Form 990 is like an income tax return for nonprofit organizations, but unlike a tax return that readers are familiar with, it does not list how much the company made and it is open to public scrutiny. Instead of listing how much profit the nonprofit makes, the Form 990 lists how much it raises in donations and grants and how it spends those donations.

Although nonprofits are required to file their Form 990 annually, El Paso Matters has only one listed in the IRS website, the 2019 report, which is its first required report. Although the reports for 2020 and 2021 are not available, we cannot ascribe any meaning to them not being there because the IRS and the nonprofits have been delayed in processing and reporting their finances due to the pandemic. The lack of financial reporting does not become a problem for a nonprofit until the nonprofit misses three returns in a row.

Unfortunately, the 2019 return, Form 990-EZ, does not provide much information about the finances of El Paso Matters because it lists $0 in all financial line items. However, the tax return provides a valuable piece of information that allows us to further explore El Paso Matters. The return states that El Paso Matters operates “exclusively for the benefit of, to perform the functions of, or to carry out the purposes of one or more publicly supported organizations.” The tax filing shows that El Paso Matters is a “Type I” organization, which is a company “operated, supervised, or controlled by” by another entity. The controlling entity has the “power to regularly appoint or elect a majority of the directors or trustees of” El Paso Matters. [16] In other words, the board overseeing the operations of El Paso Matters is not Bob Moore, but a third-party that controls who makes up the board.

According to the tax filing, the El Paso Community Foundation is the controlling entity that oversees El Paso Matters. [17] In its simplest terms, the El Paso Community Foundation is in control of El Paso Matters, financially and by the power to appoint the board of El Paso Matters.

What does this mean? Under the IRS tax code, “supporting organizations” provide material support to the nonprofits they manage. The IRS requires that the supported nonprofit, El Paso Matters in this case, must be controlled by the organization that sponsors it, in this case, the El Paso Community Foundation. The job of the parent organization is to provide support in the form of accounting, regulatory filings, office overhead, money management, and other services for its sibling organizations. [18] Centralizing these types of services reduces operating costs for the member nonprofits. [19]

The El Paso Community Foundation

As previously reported by El Paso News, the El Paso Community Foundation (EPCF) was instrumental in the rebuilding and reopening of the Plaza Theater in 2006 over a twenty-year process. Eric Pearson joined the El Paso Community Foundation in 2005 as a Program Officer. Pearson was the lead individual promoting the Plaza Theater in the media as the foundation sought to have the city fund its renovations. Prior to working at the Foundation, Pearson worked at KTSM, under his father, Richard Pearson, from 1992 through 2003 until he resigned for unknown reasons. His father resigned from the station the following year. Eric Pearson worked for a short time at Mithoff-Burton before landing at the foundation. In 2011, Pearson was appointed the president of the El Paso Community Foundation, the position he currently holds. One of El Paso Matters’ board members is Julie Summerford Pearson, who is married to Eric Pearson. Summerford Pearson currently works for Woody Hunt’s company.

The El Paso Community Foundation established itself as a kind of clearing house for philanthropic money in El Paso in 1977. The Houston-based Burkitt Foundation provided the El Paso Community Foundation its first donation totaling $54,000 on April 12, 1977. By 2009, as part of the settlement of a legal dispute, the El Paso Community Foundation controlled the $13 million Burkitt had in its accounts, adding it to the Foundation’s $10 million it had in 2009.

El Paso News examined the IRS Forms 990 for the El Paso Community Foundation starting in 2016 through 2020. EPCF files two Form 990’s – the 990 and the 990T. The IRS Form 990T is a tax return filed by non-profit companies to report income for tax purposes. In 2016, EPCF reported $16,196 in rental income from office space rent. EPCF did not file a 2017 Form 990T in 2017. The 2018 Form 990T reported $26,011 in rental and administrative services it provided. In 2019, EPCF reported $17,402 and no income in 2020, although it reported taking the “specific deduction” of $1,000 available to non-profits.

However, the important financial details for non-profits are reported in Form 990. The El Paso News examined the Form 990’s filed by the El Paso Community Foundation for 2016, 2018 and 2019, the only three reports available on the IRS website.

From the 2016 Form 990, we know that EPCF received $18,916,869 in 2016, up from $10,839,339 in 2015. We also know that EPCF held about $45 million in assets, about $10 million more than it held in 2015. The IRS website does not list any tax returns for EPCF in 2017. The 2018 return shows that EPCF lost money in 2017 and in 2018. In 2018, EPCF reported losing $730,899 and $599,249 in 2017. Their assets also dropped from about $50 million in 2017 to about $43 million in 2018. By 2018, the Foundation was again in the black, reporting $22,056,772 in revenues for 2019. The EPCF disclosed generating almost $5 million in revenues for 2019, as well as reporting about $55 million in assets.

El Paso News also reviewed the El Paso Community Foundation financial statements for 2018, 2019 and 2020. El Paso Matters first appeared in the EPCF financial statements in the 2019-2020 statement. The financial statement does not provide any financial details for El Paso Matters. However, it has a listing for “other organizations” showing $64,514 in cash in 2020 and $12,203 in 2019. It is unclear if El Paso Matters is included in those amounts, although other affiliated organizations like the El Paso Museum of History Foundation, who shows $13,873 in cash in 2019, are identified separately.

El Paso News also reviewed the financial statements for the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation for 2004 through 2020. The Hunt Foundation was previously known as the Cimarron Foundation. Cimarron was established in 1987 and changed its name to the Hunt Family Foundation in 2005. [20] The Hunt Family Foundation awarded $19 million as a multi-year commitment to 18 organizations, among them was a commitment made to the El Paso Community Foundation for use by the Newspaper Tree. [21] The Newspaper Tree was a non-profit much like El Paso Matters is today but was shuttered without publishing a single report even though it had three veteran reporters on its staff and a budget of about $400,000. We will look at the Newspaper Tree and how it connects to El Paso Matters further down.

According to The Hunt Family Foundation 2012 Annual Report Summary, between 1987 and 2003 the Hunt Foundation reported giving $3,316,409. Between 2004 through 2012, the foundation reported granting $12,453,385. In 2020, the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation reported giving the El Paso Community Foundation $200,393. This amount was reported in their 2020 Annual Report. This is the first time that the Hunt Foundation donated funds to the El Paso Community Foundation that were not earmarked for the Newspaper Tree in 2010 and 2013. In 2019, El Paso Matters started raising funds for El Paso Matters. In addition to supporting the defunct Newspaper Tree and El Paso Matters, the Hunt Family Foundation has made significant contributions to the Texas Tribune.

As of Monday, El Paso Matters’ website reports that the El Paso Community Foundation has donated $170,000. In addition to the EPCF donation, El Paso Matters also reports another $60,000 from the Woody and Gayle Hunt Foundation.

Nonprofit Abuse Rampant

In 2006, the IRS reported that nonprofits had “become a hotbed of tax evasion and abuse.” “Among the most serious problems highlighted” by the IRS was taxpayers delaying their donations through “supporting organizations,” reaping the tax benefit without making the donation at the time the tax savings is realized. The IRS report explained that the supporting organization allowed assets to be accumulated “tax-free.” [22] The rapid growth of the supporting organizations in the mid-2000’s raised concerns that they were being used “as tax shelters for the wealthy.” [23]

El Paso Matters is designated a 509(a)(3) non-profit subservient to the El Paso Community Foundation. According to a 2006 Indiana Law Review article, supporting organizations like El Paso Matters “have vast potential for philanthropic impact but perhaps equally vast potential for abuse.” The law review article goes on to state that “donors who establish supporting organizations may retain inappropriate levels of control over the assets they contribute…or engage in abusive financial transactions.” [emphasis ours] [24]

The primary problem identified by the paper is the lack of transparency that the 509(a)(3) designation has. It makes it difficult to understand the financing behind such an organization. Although we have a general idea of how El Paso Matters was funded and if we are to accept the donations page of the publication as accurate, we have a general picture of its funding. What we know is neither transparent nor detailed which forces us to make assumptions about its finances.

More important to the discussion at hand is the control that a supporting organization provides to the individual making the donation to it. In 1989 the Wall Street Journal offered three examples of donors improperly exerting influence over their donations to nonprofits. One such example was David Cammack who had an antique car collection he wanted to donate to a museum but wanted to retain control over the cars. Cammack donated part of his collection to the American Automobile Club of America with conditions. Cammack received an immediate tax deduction for his donation, but the museum did not get the cars until they first built “a museum to his satisfaction, complete with a Cammack family wing.” [25] The Cammack example demonstrates that a wealthy donor can donate to a nonprofit, receive the tax benefit, while not allowing the beneficiary to use the donation until certain conditions are met.

Nonprofit newsrooms bring up their own set of problems when donors use undue influence over the publications they support.

A 2016 investigation into nonprofit newsrooms identified; “many funders, for instance, finance media in areas where they do public policy work.” While there is little in guidelines as to what types of donations nonprofits will accept, the report found that a “funder can be quite specific about the journalism they want to underwrite,” and that 52% of those surveyed by the study “make grants on issues about which they are also trying to change policy or public behavior.” The report adds that “a good deal of the protection of journalistic independence in the realm of nonprofit media is left to good intentions.” [26]

Ultimately the problem with the nonprofit mechanism that El Paso Matters is using is the inability to fully understand how El Paso Matters is funded and what the conditions of the funding are, notwithstanding Bob Moore’s argument that it is an independent news outlet and that Hunt funds very little of the operation. Without fully understanding transparently what control Hunt asserts over El Paso Matters it is impossible to know if the man that has ordered the firing of one journalist continues to exert that authority over Bob Moore.

Dark Money Politics

Nonprofits “that masquerade as ‘social welfare nonprofits’ under section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax law” have come under scrutiny in recent years for allowing “wealthy special interests” to use nonprofits “to pour cash into elections.” [27] According to the IRS, a 501(c)(4) is a type of nonprofit that promotes “social welfare” for a community. Generally social welfare nonprofits are homeowner associations or volunteer fire departments, but other organizations that also “engage in substantial lobbying activities” can be classified under this nonprofit designation. The misuse of nonprofits for political purposes lies in that the money used for political purposes is not disclosed publicly, thus the use of the term “dark money,” the political money that is hard to trace to its source. The nonprofits cannot have political activity as their “primary purpose.” “Dark money groups get away with breaking the law because the two federal agencies charged with overseeing political activity and nonprofits, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), are doing nothing to stop them.” [28]

Although neither El Paso Community Foundation nor El Paso Matters falls under the “social welfare” designation, the controversy over the use of “dark money” is important to understand. One reason over the controversy is the difficulty in tracking who is contributing through “dark money” nonprofits. The IRS wants to know how the money flows through the nonprofits because “substantial contributors to nonprofits are often the founders of the organization and typically have some ‘controlling stake’ in the organization.” [29]

Bob Moore and the Texas Tribune offer the fact that they publish unflattering reports about Woody Hunt and his business activities as reason enough to discount any influence Hunt may have over what is published about him. However, circumstantial evidence exists that Woody Hunt exercises control over reporting about him through the donations he makes to the Texas Tribune and the El Paso Matters. The evidence is related through the money flows to the nonprofits, but, because financial reporting to the IRS required for nonprofits is opaque, it is difficult to see how the money flows from the donor to the publications and corollate the money to the influence. Not having easy access to the names and amounts of significant donors and because of the complex business structure of the El Paso Community Foundation makes it extremely difficult to draw a clear line between influence and money. However, how a news organization selectively chooses what to report and how it reports it allows us to further understand their news coverage. Most important is how a newsroom resources are targeted at one issue and not another. In the case of El Paso Matters we also have a record of how Woody Hunt has previously leveraged his donation to fire a news reporter. But first let us look at selective reporting.

Selective Reporting

The Texas Tribune “has been hailed as a new journalism model to save the craft from collapse after the success of the Internet.” [30] Hunt has contributed financially to the Texas Tribune and El Paso Matters. During the controversy over the ballpark and the destruction of the city hall to make way for it, local attorney Stephanie Townsend Allala was fighting to force the city to disclose several records under the Texas Public Information Act related to the ballpark project. In 2013, both Paul Foster and Woody Hunt dramatically increased their donations to the Texas Tribune from a combined $40,000 in 2010 to $200,000 three years later. What changed between 2010 and 2013? Foster and Hunt were trying to build their ballpark opposed by several groups in El Paso. Among them was Stephanie Townsend Allala. After receiving a substantial increase in donations from Foster and Hunt, the Texas Tribune published a “rumor” that Stephanie Townsend Allala was going to challenge Marisa Marquez for her seat.

The problem was that Townsend Allala had no intention of running for office because she was focused on the ballpark controversy. But by putting her name as a potential candidate, the Texas Tribune created the narrative that Townsend Allala’s activism was about running for office instead of what she publicly stated numerous times that it was about government transparency. El Paso News traced the source of the rumor to blogger Ali Enrique Razavi who previously worked for Norma Chavez and writes political blogs under the moniker Max Powers. The blogger had first floated the rumor of Stephanie Townsend Allala running for office and it was picked up from there by the Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey told the El Paso News at the time that they did not bother to ask Townsend Allala if she was running for office because the Texas Tribune adds “names for a variety of reasons, explicitly including political rumors and word of mouth.” Ramsey refused to provide us with their source for Stephanie Townsend Allala’s name, but the only public source of the name was Razavi’s blog. We have documented extensively that Woody Hunt uses the political consulting firm the Forma Group for running candidates for office. Both the principal of the Forma Group, Ricardo Armendariz and Ali Razavi worked for Norma Chavez.

Most recently we exposed that the Forma Group was behind the secretive mailout Keep Going Strong in support of Dee Margo in the 2020 elections.

James Moore, no relation to Bob Moore, who writes that he was part of the capital press corps for 22 years as a TV news correspondent penned a blog post in the Huffpost in 2014 where he questions how “can a news outlet take huge donations from lobbyist and corporations and not be influenced?” Moore lays out examples using the Texas Tribune. [31] According to Moore, the Tribune simply cannot be unbiased because it has become a part of the institutions it told the public it intended to scrutinize and hold responsible for good government.” Moore added that “regardless of the organization’s [Tribune] intentions, there is no conclusion to reach other than the Texas Tribune has to be considered corrupted by its sources of funding.” [32]

Moore goes on to lay out his reasoning behind his belief that the Texas Tribune cannot be independent of its funding sources. According to him, the Tribune “is the recipient of significant amounts of money from the same corporations and lobbyists that donate to legislators and other office holders to help them in their campaigns.” Moore goes on to add that by 2014, the Tribune had been “in operation long enough to see there is no reason to take them seriously as a news organization, and the evidence to reach this conclusion is abundant.” [33]

The veteran newsman continued that the problem with the Texas Tribune is the “sins of omission.” Moore’s argument “against donations is that they require a belief in a non-profit and its missions, and that transforms the donors into partners, which means fairness is constantly at risk.” Moore adds that “the journalist can hardly be expected to focus their interests on a donor’s bad business practices when there are so many other pressing issues, right?” [34] In other words, with limited resources, dwindling news staffs and several community issues jostling for news attention, the issue picked up by the news outlet is the issue less likely to upset the donors funding the operation.

Likely the best example of the selective news cycle in terms of El Paso Matters is the complete lack of coverage about the malpractice lawsuit against the El Paso Children’s Hospital by David Saucedo and his wife. Putting aside for the moment that it is being litigated in court and applying the following litmus test to the fact that El Paso Children’s Hospital is facing a malpractice lawsuit we can see that it is news that is important to the community in that involves the health of children and taxpayer funds.

The reason is that it is a malpractice lawsuit against a public entity and the allegations of failing to provide adequate care to a child that resulted in her death. That is newsworthy if not for the fact that the lawsuit was filed. But adding to that context is that a doctor at the children’s hospital wrote in an affidavit that another doctor who still provides services at the hospital is “unqualified to practice pediatric care medicine,” and “presents a real danger to his patients and should be removed from the practice of medicine.” The affidavit on its own is newsworthy if nothing else but to offer the hospital’s perspective. The affidavit is so troublesome that a court took the unprecedented step of ordering the removal of the affidavit from the public filings.

A court ordering the removal of a court filing is newsworthy on its own. It is not only unprecedented, but it goes directly to the fundamental principal of journalism – the First Amendment – and the public’s right to its courts. As of September 13, 2022, Bob Moore and El Paso Matters have yet to report on these facts.

Consider the amount of effort and resources that El Paso Matters has spent on reporting the controversies at the District Attorney’s office over the last six months, the same time frame that the court document was removed from the public record. Compare the staffing level of El Paso Matters that is more than the one-man operation that is, essentially, El Paso News. El Paso Matters has a budget of at least $2 million and yet El Paso News has scooped El Paso Matters on three important news items in just the recent week. We were the only publication to publish the IRS complaint filed against El Paso Matters, so much so that Moore’s publication was forced to use our copy of the complaint to respond to it. We also broke the news of the University Medical Center’s (UMC) attempt to bypass the voters by having county commissioners issue $346 million in certificates of obligations and the first to report that over 35,000 signatures were collected to oppose the issuance of the certificates.

Where was El Paso Matters’ coverage on these more recent community issues? It’s not as if they do not have the funding, the staffing and the resources to lead the news cycles. The important question is whether the lack of coverage is an oversight, or worse, “sins of omission?”

The Same Funding Mechanisms For El Paso Matters and The Texas Tribune

Similarities between the Texas Tribune and El Paso Matters do not end in reporting and Woody Hunt. Both publications proudly display who donates to them, as a form of “transparency” they both argue.

Looking at their supporters page, one cannot help but wonder why it is they feel similar. The Texas Tribune lists their top donors, but because they have operated much longer than El Paso Matters, their donor page is much longer. Nevertheless, several donors appear in both publications.

The following is a list of contributors who contributed to both the Texas Tribune and El Paso Matters according to their donations list page. The amounts in brackets [] are for El Paso Matters, the other amounts are for the Texas Tribune.

  1. Arnold Ventures $5,484,695 [$185,000]
  2. El Paso Electric $23,000 [$40,000]
  3. Emerson Collective $2,225,00 [$425,000]
  4. Facebook $2,586,330 [$155,000]
  5. Woody & Gayle Hunt Family Foundation $836,375 [$60,000]
  6. Inasmuch Foundation $330,000 [$50,000]
  7. Report for America $25,000 [$27,250]
  8. Solutions Journalism Network $20,250 [$5,000]
  9. Walton Family Foundation $30,000 [$8,500]

The financial element and reporting omissions may not be enough to demonstrate undue influence. There can be many reasons that can explain the two, many of which can be innocent. However, in the case of El Paso Matters, we have a documented history that we can see to better understand the improper influence over what is reported by El Paso Matters. The historical example involves Woody Hunt, the El Paso Community Foundation and the closure of newsroom after the firing of a reporter under Hunt’s orders.

The Newspaper Tree Case

To further understand the mechanics between Woody Hunt, ethics in journalism and the funding mechanism through the El Paso Community Foundation it is important to understand the case of the Newspaper Tree.

On November 18, 2010, a certificate of formation was filed with the Texas Secretary of State for the Newspaper Tree, Inc. Emanuel Anthony Martinez was the individual behind the first and the second incarnation of the Newspaper Tree. Martinez was the deputy campaign manager for the Ray Caballero reelection campaign in 2003. Martinez launched the Newspaper Tree as an online publication shortly after Caballero lost his reelection campaign. The first edition was delivered as an email to an undisclosed email list. This was the first incarnation of the publication. The first incarnation of the Newspaper Tree focused on the Joe Wardy administration, whose articles were bylined by pseudonyms like Sydney Hall Maven, Common Sense and Paseño Chronicles.

Martinez launched the Newspaper Tree on August 8, 2003, and then turned it over to Vanessa Johnson who ran it until about 2007. In 2007, Keith Mahar purchased the Newspaper Tree for an undisclosed sum and sold it to the El Paso Community Foundation in December 2009. The following July, the El Paso Community Foundation received a grant of $203,000 from the Knight Foundation. We do not know how much Woody Hunt gave to the El Paso Community Foundation that was earmarked for the Newspaper Tree because Hunt’s foundation only reported an aggregate amount on its financials that included other recipients, including the Newspaper Tree. But we do know from a former employee of the Newspaper Tree that the Newspaper Tree “was primarily funded by Woody Hunt,” ostensibly to “fight corruption.”

The Newspaper Tree hired Louie Gilot, Anthony Martinez, Debbie Nathan, Sito Negron and David Crowder. But before the second incarnation of the Newspaper Tree published its first article, Debbie Nathan was fired after Hunt complained to Eric Pearson that Nathan was wanting to publish a news piece on the ballpark that Woody Hunt was part owner of. Without publishing a single report, the Newspaper Tree shut down for a second time in November 2014 after spending about $400,000.

Although the lack of receiving the nonprofit status they were seeking is the official explanation for the shuttering of the second incarnation of the Newspaper Tree, the fact remains that they had a staff of at least five, three of which are known reporters and a functioning website that could handle any publication of any report. Yet, the second incarnation closed without publishing a single report. Moreover, one of the reporters, Debbie Nathan was fired for attempting to report on Woody Hunt’s ballpark project that was controversial. As if that is not enough, Nathan goes on to publicly challenge Bob Moore’s journalistic ethics and the problem with the El Paso Community Foundation’s oversight of Moore’s publication by discussing a more recent example of how philanthropic money influences what El Paso Matters publishes.

In her Medium channel, Nathan wrote in January that Bob Moore “did something bizarre and hardly ethical” when he published an obituary about Jack Cardwell, “a long time, major funder to the El Paso Community Foundation,” as described by Nathan. Nathan closes with the “Cardwell orbit raises questions about the extent to which Moore is violating his own ethics under pressure by the Cardwell Foundation and EPCF.” [35]

The day before the 2020 mayoral election, we noted that one of the candidates for the mayor’s seat, Carlos Gallinar had made a $250 donation to El Paso Matters. We questioned Moore about why he accepted the contribution from a mayoral candidate before an election, especially since the candidate was allowed to publish an editorial about his candidacy in El Paso Matters. No other editorials by mayoral candidates were published by El Paso Matters then. In his response to our query, Bob Moore wrote that “contributions do not influence our editorial judgement,” and he closed with “political candidates are advertising on local media,” equating donations with advertising.

Like the Newspaper Tree, the El Paso Community Foundation is the overseer of El Paso Matters and like the Newspaper Tree, Woody Hunt was part of the initial funding of Bob Moore’s publication. As we have also noted, questions about Moore’s ethical standards continue to be raised regularly and his dependence on philanthropic monies continue to be a matter of concern. But is 3% of his total reported donations truly a matter of concern?

The Seed Money For El Paso Matters

According to several sources, when Bob Moore is questioned about any influence Woody Hunt may have over him his response is that Hunt is only a small portion of his donations. This is correct as El Paso News has been able to link about 3% of El Paso Matters’ total reported funding to Woody Hunt or Hunt-related funding. Left unsaid is how the Hunt funding was instrumental to the subsequent funding that El Paso Matters has received. It is unlikely that El Paso Matters would have received the $2 million it reports in funding if it were not for the seed money provided by Woody Hunt.

On February 17, 2020, when Bob Moore launched El Paso Matters, he reported raising $85,975 from donations of at least $1,000. This was the seed money for El Paso Matters. Three initial benefactors mostly funded El Paso Matters the seed money it needed. They were Arnold Ventures with $30,000, the El Paso Community Foundation with $20,000 and the El Paso Electric Company with $10,000. The three accounted for 70% of the seed money Moore used to launch El Paso Matters.

It is unknown how much of the $20,000 from the El Paso Community Foundation can be traced back to Woody Hunt but El Paso Matters reports that Hunt has given the publication at least $60,000. To put this in perspective, the seed money provided the opportunity for Moore to leverage it for both the operating expenses in launching El Paso Matters but also in leveraging the rest of the $2 million dollars in its budget.

Applying for most grants requires resources and time to submit applications to funding sources. Before foundations start to look at giving grants to nonprofits, they want to see that the foundation’s money will be used effectively. A new nonprofit without a stable source of funds to sustain a viable nonprofit is unlikely to receive any funding from established foundations. Like small businesses looking for bank loans, nonprofits need to be seen as stable and functioning before a foundation will consider giving them a grant.

GrantStation, a membership service helping nonprofits find sources of funding compiled a comprehensive report on grants for nonprofits in 2019. The source of its data was “an informal survey” of 3,476 respondents to its survey questions. According to the survey, 90% of the nonprofits applied for grants for funding in 2020. It took an average of one to two individuals working on grant writing for 74% of the nonprofits applying for grants. According to the respondents 22% of the organizations submitting grant applications did not receiving any grant money. The survey found that grants comprised 25% or less of the operating budgets of about 50% of those surveyed. The average grant was $150,000 in 2019. The survey also found that it took an average of one to six months to apply and for most it took one to two individuals and about 18 days of work to research, prepare and submit the application requesting a grant. [36]

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a grant writer salary is about $60,000. However, because nonprofits rely on volunteers, board members and staff it is impossible to determine what the cost is to submit grant applications. Nonetheless, there are several costs associated with grant writing that makes it difficult for startup nonprofits to apply for and receive grants. In the case of El Paso Matters, it is likely that the El Paso Community Foundation provided grant writing to the publication.

El Paso Matters, in addition to the seed money and the resources offered by the El Paso Community Foundation, had the added benefit of being poised to benefit from the change in fundraising among nonprofits because of the pandemic and the rise of nonprofit supported news media by the disruption in journalism brought on by the Internet. Journalism has been under extreme flux with the advent of the Internet giving rise to news reports delivered directly to the consumers digitally, efficiently and inexpensively. The disruption of journalism through the Internet has decimated the news industry and continues to transform the news cycles.

After the 2016 presidential elections, discussion about the use of philanthropic monies to fund nonprofit journalism began in earnest and the wealthy began to fund “a struggling news media system” to “counter extreme populism and intolerance fueled by fake news.” At the time, newspapers were collapsing as advertising revenues continued to drop. Between 2010 and 2015, 6,568 foundations provided $1.8 billion in journalism funding. Between 2010 and 2015, the top recipient of local and state nonprofit news grants was the Texas Tribune, which received about $6 million in nonprofit funding. [37]

Although there was speculation that the nonprofit mechanism of funding newsrooms was poised to take off by 2015 there was also much debate about whether it would be as transformative as some suggested. The 2016 national elections and the following pandemic ended the debate as nonprofit newsrooms benefited from the sudden need for a new business model to resolve the problem of the erosion of quality news and information.

However, even if the pandemic and the rise of nonprofit journalism is factored in, the amount of funding El Paso Matters has received would not have been possible without the seed money it received from Woody Hunt.

Is El Paso Matters’ Nonprofit Status At Risk?

As reported earlier, a complaint alleging political activity by Bob Moore and El Paso Matters was filed earlier this month. The complaint alleges that El Paso Matters has engaged in a conspiracy with its coverage of El Paso’s District Attorney, Yvonne Rosales. Because Rosales is an elected official, El Paso Matters’ reporting could be construed as a political activity. Although the IRS will make the determination, the question remains, is El Paso Matters in danger of losing its nonprofit status.

A 2011 study by the Center on Nonprofit and Philanthropy found that “16 percent of nonprofits nationwide” had lost their nonprofit status. However, the revocations came about because of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 that mandated all nonprofits begin to file annual reports with the IRS. Previously, nonprofits with less than $25,000 in annual receipts were not required to file reports. [38]

On June 8, 2011, the IRS began to make available an automated list of nonprofits that had failed to file three consecutive Form 990 reports leading to the revocations of their status. Many of the revocations were likely defunct smaller nonprofits, like neighborhood groups, that were no longer operating, according to an Urban Institute report. [39] There is little information to suggest that IRS has revoked any nonprofit statuses because of political activity. The controversies over the IRS targeting conservative groups in 2013 has also hampered the agency’s investigation into nonprofit political activities. “The reaction from Congress created a culture of fear in the IRS that ‘paralyzed’ the division responsible for reviewing tax-exempt groups.” [40] Also, the IRS has limited resources to investigate tax evaders and even less to investigate the nonprofit sector “likely because it delivers little in tax revenue.” [41]

Philanthropy By The Numbers

The United States is the by far the most generous nation when it comes to charitable giving by individuals. It averages just under 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2016, Americans’ charitable contributions by GDP was 1.44%. In second place was New Zealand at 0.79%. [42]

Based on adjusted growth income to charitable contributions, the most giving metropolitan area is Logan, Utah with a giving ratio of 9.1%. Worcester, Massachusetts has a giving ratio of 1.7%. El Paso ranks in the bottom half of the 381 metropolitan places analyzed at 3%. El Pasoans contributed on average $3,904 dollars in 2015. These are El Pasoans whose average income is $50,000 or more and itemized their tax returns. In 2015, El Pasoans contributed $155,115,000, according to the charitable contributions reported on income tax returns. [43]

Political Contributions By Woody Hunt

The 2020 book, Who Rules El Paso? by the El Paso Community First Coalition argues that the political power in El Paso is wielded by Woody Hunt and Paul Foster through their political contributions in El Paso elections. But Foster and Hunt not only contribute heavily to local races as they are among the largest political donors in Texas. The Texas Tribune listed Hunt as one of the top GOP donors in Texas in 2015.

When it came to presidential campaign contributions, Texas ranked only behind California in 2012, reported the Texas Tribune in 2015. Woody Hunt was among the top ten Texas donors to political campaigns in 2012. What readers should note is how the Texas Tribune chose to describe Woody Hunt as “a connected donor who can bring El Paso’s old money to a campaign.” The Texas Tribune added that “Gayle, is a politically connected bundler.” Gayle Hunt, who is married to Hunt, is the Gayle part of the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation. Bundlers, according to the Texas Tribune, are individuals who can generate “direct campaign donations” to campaigns by making telephone calls or bringing individuals together. However, the Texas Tribune chose to add a caveat to Hunt’s profile by adding that there is “some dispute in GOP circles over whether Hunt or oil refiner Paul Foster is the dominant El Paso donor.” [44]

Open Secrets, a nonprofit that tracks campaign finance, reports that in 2022, Hunt companies contributed $1,754,848, making Hunt one of the top contributors from Texas, putting Hunt in the eleventh place in the list. In 2020, Hunt was also in eleventh place in the state, making $2,900,621 in political contributions. Hunt has been part of the top political contributors in Texas since at least 2004. [45] Except for Paul Foster, Hunt is the only other El Pasoan on the list bringing up the question of why the Texas Tribune added the caveat that some “dispute in GOP circles” on whether Hunt is one of “the dominant El Paso donor.” In the 2022 election cycle, El Paso was seventh on the list of the top metro areas with a total contribution of $4,208,656 in political contributions. Hunt’s contributions in 2022 represents about 41% of El Paso’s contributions. How Hunt is not one the dominant El Paso contributors to political campaigns in Texas has not been explained by the Texas Tribune.

El Paso did not appear on the list of the top metro areas in Texas making political contributions until 2006. El Paso was last in the list of nine in 2006 with $1,140,191 in political contributions. Hunt accounted for 30% of the city’s contributions in 2006. Hunt did not appear on the list in 2008, 2010 and 2012, although El Paso was on the list of metro areas in Texas contributing to political campaigns in Texas. It wasn’t until the 2014 election cycle that Hunt reappeared on the list of the top campaign contributors in Texas. It is also in 2014 that Paul Foster makes the list for the first time. El Paso was seventh on the list of 9 cities with $2,984,853 in political contributions. Foster’s Western Refining contributed $1,290,639 and Hunt contributed $763,600 in 2014. Foster and Hunt’s political contributions represented over 68% of El Paso’s political contributions in 2014. There is a discrepancy in the Open Secrets data for 2016. The data shows that Hunt contributed $3,368,354 and Foster contributed $4,058,375 of El Paso’s $7,105,529 in 2016, some $321,000 more than El Paso is shown to have contributed. The reason for the discrepancy is likely due to the methodology used by Open Secrets to collate the amounts from several sources. Nonetheless, the significance of Hunt’s political contributions in relation to political contributions coming from El Paso are significant. In 2018, Hunt accounted for 24% of El Paso’s contributions, and in 2020, Hunt’s contributions were 25% of El Paso’s total. For 2022, El Paso accounted for $4,208,656 of the political contributions in Texas. Of that, $1,770,657 came from Hunt which represents 42% of the total. [46]

Woody Hunt has public policy as his primary motive for the political contributions he makes. Can the same be said of his seed funding of El Paso Matters? We know that in at least one documented case, Hunt has ordered the removal of a journalist for working on story that involved him. We also know that El Paso Matters is the second nonprofit in El Paso that Woody Hunt has helped to fund. The first – the Newspaper Tree – was shuttered before it published a single report, not long after Debbie Nathan, one of three reporters at the news outlet, was fired at the direction of Hunt.

Funding by donors, the 2016 study found, is mostly (41%) earmarked to pay “for an exposé or investigation into a specific problem.” Over 80% of the nonprofits surveyed agreed that they accept funding to “conduct specific investigations” by the nonprofit news outlets they support. [47] Because it is difficult to know who donated much of the $170,000 that the El Paso Community Foundation has provided El Paso Matters and what, if any, conditions are attached to them we cannot know if they are for a specific exposé, like, for example – Yvonne Rosales.

What It All Means

Concisely the problem lies in that, as the 2016 report found, the wishes of the donors trump the news. Four in ten donors said in 2016 that “they engage in funding of media to advance other larger strategic goals.” The study also found that 41% of recipients of the donations view the donations as “to drive some other agenda,” instead of advancing journalism. [48] It simply cannot be ignored that the goals of nonprofits, especially multilayered ones like the El Paso Community Foundation is centered on driving policy outcomes.

Understanding how El Paso Matters operates is important to the community discussion because El Paso Matters can lead the narrative about elected officials in El Paso. The realm of nonprofits was never intended to influence elections because allowing them to do so would allow the wealthy to assert unbridled control over the political process while enjoying the tax deduction of funding a friendly news outlet for their political agenda.

This investigation shows the complex intertangled web of a multilayered organization that on the surface looks like it is owned by Bob Moore but ultimately the authority lies with the board that oversees the El Paso Community Foundation. The complexity of the business structure makes it very difficult to follow and understand the money flows that keep El Paso Matters operating. A typical news outlet like KVIA must file reports with the FCC detailing specifically how much income it derives from political advertising. Political organizations must file reports explaining how much money they raise and how they spend it. The financial model of Gannett, the owner of El Paso Times, is available through public records.

Although, ostensibly, nonprofit organizations are supposed to make public their tax returns, as readers saw they provide little clarity as to who funded them, when and at what amount. That is assuming the returns are filed regularly. As we discovered, El Paso Matters has only filed one return, in 2019 and it shows zeros for all financial data, yet they report having over $2 million in working capital.

More important is that even with the opaqueness of the finances we have been able to trace a significant funding source, used as seed money for the $2 million that El Paso Matters has, to one source – Woody Hunt. Hunt not only has been accused of using his significant wealth to control El Paso’s public policy through campaign contributions by the El Paso Community First Coalition, but we have shown that he funded the Newspaper Tree, exactly as he did El Paso Matters, exerted his influence to fire a reporter for trying to publish an unflattering report about him, only to shut down the Newspaper Tree before it printed a single report even with a $400,000 investment.

Today, if we are to believe Bob Moore’s donations page, he has been given $2,097,219 in money for El Paso Matters. The important question and one left unanswered is whether Woody Hunt, or someone else controls the topics that El Paso Matters reports.

We have shown two very important community issues – the malpractice lawsuit against the El Paso Children’s Hospital and the petition to stop the University Medical Center of El Paso from issuing nonvoter approved public debt that El Paso Matters has failed to report at the level that it has reported the controversies at the District Attorney’s office. It can’t be a case of limited resources because clearly El Paso Matters has the staffing and money to report on those matters, that is, unless the decision not to cover those two issues at the intensity that El Paso Matters has covered the District Attorney has more to do with selective reporting instead of the journalism it purports to report.

We need your help to continue to bring you investigative reports like this. Reports like this one take considerable resources and time. Please consider making a donation using the donate box on the right to allow us to bring you more news, news analysis and investigative reports. All donations go towards bringing you the reporting you have been enjoying since 2000.


  1. Tom Rosentiel, William Buzenberg, Marjorie Connelly and Kevin Loker, “Charting new ground: The ethical terrain of nonprofit journalism,” AmericanPress Institute, April 20, 2016.
  2. Ruben Hernandez Murillo and Deborah Roisman, “The Economic of Charitable Giving: What Gives?,” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, October 1, 2005,
  3. “The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2019,” Urban Institute, National Center for Charitable Statistics, June 2020,
  4. Tyle Davis, Drew Lindsey and Brian O’Leary, “How America Gives Data: Leaders and Laggards, Giving Opportunities, and More,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 2, 2017,
  5. Paso del Norte Community Foundation website accessed on September 14, 2022,
  6. Council on Foundations website accessed on September 14, 2022,
  7. “Nonprofit Impact Matters: How America’s Charitable Nonprofits Strengthen Communities and Improve Lives,” National Council of Nonprofits, 2019.
  8. “Nonprofit Impact Matters.”
  9. Nicholas Lemann, “A Code of Ethics For journalism Nonprofits,” The New Yorker, January 28, 2016,
  10. Julian Shen-Berro, “Steve Bannon charged with money laundering, conspiracy,” Politico, September 8, 2022,
  11. The People of the State of New York v. Stephen K. Bannon, Webuildthewall, Inc., Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, Indictment, August 28, 2019, 6-9.
  12. “The difference between nonprofit and for-profit business,” Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership, Denton Campus, Texas Woman’s University, April 25, 2022,
  13. About Us, El Paso Matters website page accessed on September 10, 2022,
  14. Exhibit A-1, Partial List of Hunt Employees and Other Expert Witnesses, Document 39-2, Furman v. AETC II Privatized Housing, LLC et al., Texas Western District Court, (5:20-CV-01138), April 13, 2021.
  15. Lucille Summerford Obituary El Paso Times, January 25 to February 1, 2018,
  16. 2019 IRS Short Form Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990-EZ), filed November 12, 2020.
  17. 2017 IRS Short Form November 12, 2020.
  18. Thomas H. Pollack and Jonathan D. Dunford, “The Scope and Activities of 501(c)(3) Supporting Organizations,” National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute, May 31, 2005.
  19. Pollack, “The Scope and Activities.”
  20. Hunt Family Foundation Annual Report For 2005.
  21. Hunt Family Foundation Annual Report For 2010.
  22. Albert B. Crenshaw, “Tax Abuse Rampant in Nonprofits, IRS Says,” The Washington Post, April 5, 2006,
  23. Pollack, “The Scope and Activities.”
  24. Alyssa A. DiRusso, “Supporting the Supporting Organization: The Potential and Exploitation of 509(a)(3) Charities,” Indiana Law Review, Volume 39, Number 2, 2006.
  25. DiRusso, “Supporting the Supporting Organization.”
  26. Rosentiel, “Charting New Ground.”
  27. Roger Wieand, “Dark Money Groups Operate With Impunity While Government Does Nothing,” Advanced Democracy Through Law, May 6, 2022,
  28. Wieand, “Dark Money Groups.”
  29. Philip Hackney, “Dark Money Darker? IRS Shutters Collection of Donor Data,” University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Faculty Publications, 2021,, 152.
  30. James Moore, “The Trouble with the Trib,” Huffpost, April 20, 2014,
  31. Moore, “The Trouble with the Trib.”
  32. Moore, “The Trouble with the Trib.”
  33. Moore, “The Trouble with the Trib.”
  34. Moore, “The Trouble with the Trib.”
  35. Debbie Nathan, “Death at El Paso Matters,” January 24, 2022,
  36. Cynthia M. Adams, “2021 State of Grantseeking Report,” GrantStation, May 2021,
  37. Mathew Nisbet, John Wihbey, Silje Kristiansen and Aleszu Bajak, “Funding the News: Foundations and Nonprofit Media,” Harvard Kennedy School, Shorenstein Center, June 18, 2018,
  38. Amy S. Blackwood and Katie L. Roeger, “Revoked: A Snapshot of Organizations That Lost Their Tax-Exempt Status,” Urban Institute, Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, August 2011.
  39. Blackwood, “Revoked: A Snapshot.”
  40. Wieand, “Dark Money Groups.”
  41. Hackney, “Dark Money Darker?,” 175.
  42. “Gross Domestic Philanthropy: An international analysis of GDP, tax and giving,” Charities Aid Foundation, January 2016.
  43. “The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2019,” Urban Institute.
  44. Abby Livingston and Annie Daniel, “The Top GOP Donors and Bundlers in Texas,” The Texas Tribune, March 1, 2015,
  45. Open Secrets Election & Fundraising Data, accessed on September 13, 2022,
  46. Open Secrets.
  47. Rosentiel, “Charting New Ground.”
  48. Rosentiel, “Charting New Ground.”

The El Paso Matters Fact Sheet

El Paso Matters became a non-profit on April 16, 2020.
The effective date of the status was March 26, 2019.
Charity Status: 509(a)(3)
It was classified as a public charity.
EIN: 83-4301968

As a Type I supporting organization, El Paso Matters is “operated, supervised, or controlled by one or more publicly supported charities.” The controlling organization is the El Paso Community Foundation.

According to the El Paso Community Foundation reports to the IRS:
“El Paso Matters, Inc., was established to operate as a supporting organization under Section 509(a)(3) of the Code exclusively for the benefit of and to carry out the purpose of the El Paso Community Foundation.”

El Paso Matters Key Financials:

As of September 7, 2022, El Paso Matters reported receiving $170,000 from the El Paso Community Foundation. It also reported receiving $60,000 from the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation.

PPP Loan: El Paso Matters received a $15,800 PPP loan from WestStar Bank.

List of The Contributions:

American Journalism Project [$476,450]
Arnold Ventures [$185,000]
Richard Castro [$20,000]
Center for Gender and Reproductive Equity [$75,000]
Kassie and Joey Ckodre [$2,500]
El Paso Community Foundation [$170,000]
El Paso Electric $23,000 [$40,000]
Emerson Collective $2,225,00 [$425,000]
Facebook [$150,000 + $5,000]
Google Journalism Emergency Relief Fund [$5,000]
Martha Hood [$20,000]
Ann and Charles Horak [$3,000]
Ted Houghton [$5,000]
Woody & Gayle Hunt Family Foundation [$60,000]
Inasmuch Foundation [$50,000]
Institute for Nonprofit News NewsMatch Program (Miami Foundation) [$69,544]
Will Jewell [$20,000]
Kasco Ventures [$5,000]
Deborah Kastrin [$4,000]
Jason Kosena [$2,500]
Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Local Media Association [$5,000]
Sam Legate [$25,000]
Jack and Carol Maxon [$5,000]
Microsoft [$240,000]
Rosalinda Natividad [$2,500]
Steve Ortega [$2,500]
Laurie Paternoster [$2,700]
Rapoport Foundation [$25,000]
Report for America $25,000 [$27,250]
Laura Rodriguez [$2,700]
Solutions Journalism Network [$5,000]
Raymond Telles [$6,000]
Kelly Tomblin [$3,500]
Walmart Foundation [$5,975]
Walton Family Foundation $30,000 [$8,500]
WestStar Bank [$20,000]
Tracy and Steve Yellen [$2,500]

Unlike El Paso Matters, the Texas Tribune reports donations as little as $10. El Paso Matters only reports donations of over $2,500. All figures as of September 13, 2022. Total El Paso Matters contributions: $2,097,219 from donations of over $2,500.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...