Bonner earmark #s 11 & 12


The next two earmarks are went to the same recipient. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., secured a $352,500 earmark for Team Focus, a Mobile, Ala.-based nonprofit which aims to “provide young men that do have a father figure in their life, ages 10 18 with leadership skills, guidance, Godly values, and a continual relationship with a mentor,” according to its Web site. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., joined Bonner in sponsoring the earmark in the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. Team Focus got another earmark in the same bill for $517,000–this one sponsored by Sens. Shelby and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and joined by Bonner. The first earmark is for mentoring and education, while the second is for youth education and mentoring. (This information comes from Taxpayers for Common Sense, something I haven’t pointed out as I should.)

Patton Boggs, one of the bigger Washington lobbying firms, lobbies for Team Focus; a quick check of Open Secrets shows just $550 in contributions to Bonner from employees of the firm–all in 2002.

I looked up Team Focus’ 990s on Guidestar to get a list of directors and executives to see if any of them had contributed to Bonner’s campaign (there was one match, for $500, in 2007, from Michael Gottfried, the organization’s founder and CEO) and came across this reference to Patton Boggs (click on the image to see it larger, click again to see it full-size):


Actually, “fundraising” does sort of jibe with Patton Boggs disclosed when it registered to lobby, effective Feb. 14, 2005:


(Again, click the image to see it larger). “Seek federal funding” is pretty close to fundraising. In their 2007 mid-year disclosure, Patton Boggs said they were lobbying on Team Focus’s behalf for “Funding for juvenile justice and education programs. FY 2008 Commerce/Justice/Science Appropriations.”

Now, here’s a cautionary tale about why you should always cross reference documents whenever possible. Team Focus’ 990s don’t disclose spending any money on federal lobbyists. Here’s the relevant section from their 2007 IRS filing:


And on Schedule A, Part III, Question 1, which asks, “During the year, has the organization attempted to influence national, state, or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum? If Yes,” enter the total expenses paid or incurred in connection with the lobbying activities?” with a no…

990 Lobbying No

I called Team Focus, and talked to Cathy Nabors, their executive assistant, who seemed genuinely surprised that their man at Patton Boggs, Thomas C. Downs, had done any lobbying. Brandy Morgan, who works at Hieronymous, Gaillard & Jones LLC, the accounting firm that prepared the 990 for Team Focus, echoed that reaction, and said that the she understood from Nabors that Downs was helping prepare paperwork in connection with some federal grant applications (which would not be lobbying).

Some idle speculation: It’s entirely possible that Downs filed the lobbying disclosures out of an excess of caution even though he didn’t actually lobby (although the disclosures say that he contacted the House and Senate–worth noting that he turns up in Open Secrets’ Revolving Door database as a former congressional staffer); it’s also possible that there was a simple miscommunication somewhere along the line.

I called Downs and left a message for him.

By the way, and just to be clear — this was just an oddity I ran across with conflicting documents. One set is most likely inaccurate, and I’m just curious to find out which one.