Editors Note: Who is Public Notice? This post about the “non-partisan” interest group, written by Karoli, originally appeared on this website on January 18, 2013. On August 14, 2014, we discovered that the post had mysteriously disappeared. Fortunately, nothing on the Internet is ever really gone and we have restored the post almost as it originally appeared in 2013.

Who is Public Notice?

Since BlogHer 2011, some of us have been scratching our heads trying to figure out who is behind Public Notice, the organization fearmongering about the budget deficit in the exhibitors’ hall, which ultimately led to this frustrated post by fellow MOMocrat Donna. Since then, I’ve been working my way through a lot of federal filings and others’ reports about right wing organizations, struggling to get a handle on the behemoth that is the right wing funding network.

Finally, I have had some limited success with the assistance of an excellent Open Secrets exposé. It appears that Ms. Gretchen Hamel, executive director of Public Notice, is rather well-connected. Walk with me down the money trail, if you will.

In 2010, Koch Industries announced that they were going to put serious money into building a right-wing voter targeting database called Project Themis, apparently named after the goddess of law and order in Greek mythology. In Koch-like fashion, nothing is ever done without the benefit of a tax, or in this case, donor shelter, and so Themis Trust, a 501c4 organization, was born. It was funded with a $2,500,000 made from an entity by the name of TC4 Trust.

TC4 Trust’s limited disclosures are instructive. Established on August 28, 2009 at the height of the health care town hall fiascoes, the initial year’s contribution was $3,370,000. Like a miracle, that grew in less than a year to nearly $40 million, thanks to the miracle of investment income from a mysterious limited partnership which remains unnamed.

I think we can reasonably conclude that TC4 Trust and Themis Trust are both Koch creations, given the public proclamation that the Kochs would fund Project Themis’ database, no?

On the first report filed for TC4 Trust for the year which ended June 30, 2010, there are only two officers. One is Michael O. Hartz, a Chicago trust and estate lawyer who serves as the Trustee. The other is Gretchen Hamel, who is listed as a “Program Leader” and is the only employee on TC4′s payroll. On the second report, Hamel disappears from it. This is because she has moved to a different entity, but still plays the same role.

TC4 Trust was extremely generous to other organizations, some known and others still a mystery. Here’s a list of their largest grants through June 30, 2011:

  • $3,839,000 (exactly 1/10th of the total investment income in 2010, by the way) – Unnamed organization now known as American Commitment
  • $2,500,000 Themis Trust
  • $7,250,000 POFN, LLC (related entity to SGC4 Trust, per IRS reports)
  • $4,061,000 60 Plus Association
  • $4,301,000 Eleventh Edition, LLC (there is absolutely no information on this entity in DC where it is supposedly registered)
  • $1,500,000 TGRN, LLC
  • $5,500,000 American Commitment
  • $1,800,000 DAS Mgr LLC (controlled by Themis Trust)
  • $2,500,000 STN LLC (controlled by Themis Trust)

It looks like a lot of alphabet soup, but let’s focus on SGC4 Trust, because that’s where Gretchen Hamel is found.

SGC4 Trust dba Public Notice

SGC4 Trust dba Public Notice was formed in 2010, according to the initial IRS report filed. Its sole trustee is…wait for it…Gretchen Hamel. In the first year of its existence, SGC4 received over $11 million in direct support. SGC4 Trust aka Public Notice spent $8.5 million through April, 2011 on advertising around “fiscal and economic issues.” All of those ad buys were done through an entity in Texas called The Wolf Group, LLP, which is the consulting and communications firm of Scott Howell, who trained at the feet of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

Public Notice has a related non-profit entity by the name of Public Notice Research and Education Fund, which is controlled directly by the SGC4 trust. Gretchen Hamel is the sole director of that entity, too. That entity established a website called WashingtonCouldLearnALot.com, which was built to bolster the right-wing idea that all lawmakers had to do is eliminate Medicare and Social Security and all would be right again. Bluebirds would sing and everything would be wonderful. The site is aimed at hipster internet users, or something.

One last clue about TC4, Themis Trust, and SGC4 Trust dba Public Notice. Last year there was an implosion over at Cato Institute instigated by the Kochs and related to their desire that Cato become more directly involved in elections. As part of that implosion, the internal corporate structure of Cato was exposed. Evidently the founding four shareholders each owned one “share” of Cato, and that share was non-transferable. One of the shareholders died, and his widow sued to take her place on the board. The Kochs had other plans for Cato, including making it a messaging shop for their candidates and policies. Ultimately they settled with the widow,Ed Crane stepped down, and the Kochs retreated from their desire to turn Cato into their personal message shop.

In the process of that conflict, they exposed the weird and very controlling structure of Cato’s governance.

In the case of these entities, it appears that there are several layers of common control. TC4 Trust appears to be the hub through which funds flow to other entities which are trusts, rather than organizations. Those trusts then control organizations like Public Notice and others. On the 990 for Public Notice Research & Education Fund, there is this rather interesting note toward the end of the filing:

“In accordance with the by-laws, Class A Members elect the directors at their annual meeting.”

Class A Members are undefined, but one assumes they are related to the controlling organizations. Structuring these non-profits this way serves two purposes: First, it ensures that the sole Director serves at the pleasure of the Class A members, something I would expect from the Koch brand, particularly after Cato’s kerfuffle. Second, it buries the identities of the actual controllers under layers and layers of trusts, corporations, and anonymous entities.

Can I say with certainty that Gretchen Hamel is funded with Koch money, and Koch money alone? No. But the creation of these entities coincides with her attendance at the June, 2010 Koch retreat, her rise on Fox News, and her name prominently featured on a project funding a publicly-proclaimed Koch project (Themis) certainly seems to be conclusive circumstantial evidence that the main funding stream runs straight through Koch Industries’ corporate offices.

And that means that Donna was absolutely right about Hamel’s role as propaganda spinner. Just goes to show that a MOMocrats’ intuition should never be ignored.