Follow the Money, ethnic studies racket, part 3: Unidos we stand

In this edition of Follow the Money™, we track another member of the Minnesota Ethnic Studies Coalition (METC), Unidos MN.

You will recall from our earlier reporting, recently passed legislation placed METC in charge of organizing the official working group to recommend statewide ethnic studies standards for our K-12 public schools.

As the name would suggest, Unidos is a Hispanic-focused nonprofit working on education and other public policy issues affecting the state’s Latino community.

Unidos appears as a member of the state Coalition, under both their current name (Unidos MN) and their former name, Navigate MN.

Earlier, as Navigate MN, Unidos was part of the official Dept. of Education committee that established new public school social studies standards for the state. Those new standards included, for the first time, a mandatory ethnic studies component. Here’s one new item added under ethnic studies,

This new ethnic studies standard requiring “resistance” from students who are to “organize,” was written into the document a total of 15 times, beginning with kindergarten education.

It’s not clear if the Unidos/Navigate combination represents a merger, or a re-branding. The corporate history of the organization is quite convoluted.

According to filings with the MN Secretary of State’s office, Unidos MN was founded in December 2017 and is located on East Lake Street in Minneapolis.

An organization now listed as the Unidos MN Education Fund was founded in October 2011 as Navigate. The name change occurred on the same day in 2017 that Unidos MN was separately incorporated.

A third nonprofit was founded in September 2020 as Unidos We Win PAC. That same month the PAC was registered with the state’s Campaign Finance Board (CFP). A previous Unidos political fund was wound up in 2021.

For its part, Unidos claims to consist of two related nonprofits: the Education Fund, a 501c3 tax-exempt charity, and Unidos MN Action, a 501c4 “dark money” nonprofit.

We have been unable to confirm any 501c4 registered under the Unidos brand.

A Federal tax return filed for Navigate MN (a 501c3) for 2020 indicates that the organization generated more than $2 million per year in revenue.

The “funders” page under the old Navigate MN website includes a long and varied list of supporters. Listed are the state Department of Education and three divisions of the University of Minnesota. The local Mexican Consulate is listed, along with the usual array of prestige private foundations.

Unidos MN’s current list of partners includes many of these same names, but places SEIU Local 26 at the very top. This unit of the Service Employees International Union serves security guards, janitors and other building staff.

Tracking donations from the big local foundations produced the following. The McKnight Foundation (old 3M money) reports giving Unidos MN $1,500,000 over the past five years.

Earlier this month, the Minneapolis Foundation gave the group (under the Navigate MN name) a grant of $75,000. The Foundation also gave $45,000 to the group in 2021.

Unidos’ CEO, Emilia Gonzalez Avalos, is a 2023 Bush Fellow.

Unidos MN appears to have received money from the Blandin Foundation and the state government’s Office of Higher Education, in years past.

Unidos MN is a lobbyist organization registered with the CFB, represented by seven lobbyists, including former state Sen. Patricia Torres-Ray (DFL-Minneapolis). Unidos MN reports spending $40,000 lobbying the legislature last year.

The Unidos We Win PAC has not filed a 2022 year-end report with the Campaign Finance Board that was due nearly 8 months ago, as required by state law. However, the group did report receiving three large campaign contributions in the days leading up to the 2022 election, as follows: $15,000 from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) Action Fund, $2,500 from the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, and $8,000 from the Movement Voter PAC.

We can get a hint as to what Unidos’ PAC was up to in 2022 by looking at the organization’s 2020 filing. That year the PAC took in $180,000, with $80,000 coming from Unidos MN itself (it’s unclear from which corporate entity) and $100,000 from Win Justice of Washington, DC.

According to its website, Win Justice is a group of groups,

Four leading progressive organizations, Color Of Change PAC, Community Change Action, Planned Parenthood Votes, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), launched a $30 million campaign, Win Justice, aimed at expanding the electorate by mobilizing at least three million voters of color, young people, women, and union supporters in four key battleground states: Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

In 2020, Unidos spent the cash hiring no fewer than 25 individuals for a get-out-the-vote effort for the fall election campaign. Among the candidates supported (all Democrats) was Minneapolis state Sen. Omar Fateh.

Clues from Unidos’ social media show what the group was up to in 2022. The group’s main Twitter (X) account has this post just before the last election,

The group’s separate campaign account on Twitter (X), posted in support of Keith Ellison, among other 2022 Democratic candidates for statewide office.

To recap, prestigious private foundations and state taxpayers have underwritten the effort to radically rewrite the state’s K-12 education standards. And elect a few Democrats, along the way.

In this series,

Part 1 looks at the nonprofit Education for Liberation Minnesota

Part 2 examines the work of the Minnesota Educational Equity Partnership.

Part 4 turns to the nonprofit Education Evolving