It wasn’t until 2006, however, that Wilkerson formed an organization to collect and raise funds for the conference. Judging by its articles of incorporation, the organization was closely tied to her campaign. Its mailing address is Wilkerson’s former district office. Its treasurer, Monica Dean, was Wilkerson’s campaign manager, and its president, Carla Richards, was her chief of staff. (Messages left with Richards were not returned.)
After registering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the state in early 2006 as a 501(c)3, the group touted its tax-exempt status on its Web site in seeking to drum up support. In 2007, the conference was backed by prominent corporations seeking to demonstrate their social responsibility, including Bank of America and the Red Sox.
But after registering the nonprofit, Wilkerson — who is listed as the sole director of the nonprofit and whose then-office was (and still is) listed as the organization’s address when the 501(c)3 paperwork was initially filed — neglected to file tax returns. This is not the first time she has failed to meet the requirements of the IRS: Wilkerson served time in a halfway house following an income-tax-evasion conviction in 1997. (Ironically, she is also the current vice-chair of the Senate Financial Services committee.)
Under federal law, any organization with estimated annual receipts exceeding $25,000, such as Wilkerson’s, is required to file annual reports and to make those documents available to the public. A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office, which oversees public charities, said 21st Century Black Massachusetts has been informed that it is not in compliance and has yet to respond. The IRS can level up to a $10,000 fine for noncompliance with filing requirements and revoke tax-exempt status.
Because no reports have been filed, there’s no way of knowing how much the charity has received or how it has spent its funds. However, Bank of America alone, one of six corporate sponsors, cut a check for $10,000, according to its foundation’s 2007 return. (There is no record of the conference having been held this year.) What’s more, use of the Hynes Convention Center was provided gratis as part of a sponsorship arrangement with the state convention authority.
Wilkerson did disclose the charity in her 2007 “statement of financial interests,” which the State Ethics Commission requires annually of elected and high-ranking officials. But she simply calls it “21st Century” and lists as an office a post-office box, rather than the former district office used when the organization was registered as a 501(c)3 in 2006.
Such an imprecise disclosure to the State Ethics Commission may seem like a minor oversight. And perhaps it is. But Wilkerson’s failure to discuss her actions, especially when viewed against the backdrop of her troubled history, suggests that she hopes another round of investigations concerning political impropriety and taxes won’t materialize — at least until after Election Day.
Ted Siefer is a freelance journalist in Boston. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.