The Associated Press — which has shown an astounding lack of skepticism toward propaganda from terrorists or the international business deals of the president’s family — published an unfair hit piece last week accusing Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk of fleecing conservative donors to line his own pockets.
TPUSA is known for successfully establishing freedom-forward organizations on 3,500 high school and college campuses and its popular young activist conferences. Kirk is a key player in the organization’s widespread effort to mobilize young conservatives, but AP’s Brian Slodysko suggests the activist is only in it for the donor money.
In his Oct. 10 article “How Trump’s MAGA movement helped a 29-year-old activist become a millionaire,” Slodysko claims that Kirk found his financial success after linking his organization to former President Donald Trump and the populist policies that made him popular.
Slodysko accuses Kirk of using the roughly quarter-billion donor dollars TPUSA has raised since 2016 on not just “cultivating conservative influencers and hosting glitzy events” but enriching himself and “top Turning Point officials” with “pricey salaries,” “lavish perks,” and self-dealing.
He points to the group’s new $108 million get-out-the-vote campaign as further proof that TPUSA’s fundraising is a grift designed to benefit Kirk and his staff.
Political activists on the left have repeatedly escaped financial scrutiny from the AP or, in Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullor’s case, even earned a defense from the outlet. Kirk’s status as a multimillionaire who owns several high-dollar properties, however, is under attack largely because of his proximity to Trump, even though his personal financial success has not hinged solely on the success of TPUSA.
Kirk started as a teen activist, but his talk show, speaking engagements, and guest appearances on cable prime-time shows have propelled the growth of his influence and his bank account.
“The Charlie Kirk Show” podcast boasts a top-10 ranking on Apple News charts. According to Turning Point spokesman Andrew Kolvet, Kirk’s podcast, which doubles as a nationally syndicated radio show with Salem Media Group, receives “hundreds of thousands of streams a day” and more than 140 million downloads a year, making Kirk their most profitable host.
Kolvet said Kirk also earns significant income from frequent speaking engagements, which all hosts except churches are required to pay $50,000 to secure.
Kolvet told The Federalist he provided Slodysko with this information and offered to send the show’s “profit and loss statements” when the AP writer asked for comment. Slodysko, however, opted not to include all of the details Kolvet provided, including the fact that Kirk donates $100,000 of his own salary and “directs his significant book royalties” to TPUSA.
Slodysko instead complained that “how exactly Turning Point spends its money — and who benefits — are often difficult to discern” because of the organization’s nonprofit status and “opaque organizational structure.”
At one point in the article, Slodysko pivots from criticizing Kirk and TPUSA’s spending to scrutinizing TPUSA’s Chief Operating Officer Tyler Bowyer for “his improving financial circumstances,” which “coincided with Turning Point’s fundraising success.”
Slodysko made a big deal about Bowyer’s financial troubles, the product of a messy divorce and an automatic HOA fee judgment he paid off once he learned of it, before calling him a “fake elector,” a smear often employed by corporate media to undermine Republicans’ preparedness in close elections.
“As one of the largest and most successful conservative organizations in the country, we fully expect scrutiny like this from the press, so we are very confident that TPUSA, our executives, and board are among the most frugal and productive nonprofit teams in the country,” Kolvet said in a statement. “TPUSA is run to the highest ethical and financial standards, going above and beyond all relevant laws and regulations, and we’re confident any honest reading of the answers contained here will only serve to confirm that. We believe in being as transparent as possible, like we have always been and always plan to be with our donors, supporters, and, yes, even the press.”