What is this Conejo Guardian? It's a question I still receive PMs about, as it hits people's driveways.
The paper, and I refuse to call it journalism as it doesn't adhere to basic journalistic best practices, attempts to position itself as an "independent community news source." Rather, "independent biased community takes" feels more appropriate, but perhaps that's because I prefer being honest with the audience you're communicating to.
A little digging, and you'll note this propaganda is far from nonpartisan/neutral.
THIS IS AN UPDATE AS OF JULY 9, 2022:
The Conejo Guardian continues to publish hit pieces and name community members in these featured hate pieces, so let’s take a look at who’s behind the Conejo Guardian!
I first start digging into this mysterious new newspaper back in May of 2020. Information was scarce on both their website and the paper itself, leaving very little toward identifying who is behind the opinion pieces and 39,000 circulation paper (although in recent speech at a political event they stated the circulation as 44,000).
Amy Chen — the woman who created a paper shell of a fake nonprofit in order to claim “educational nonprofit director” as a ballot designation in her failed 2018 CVUSD School Board run, is listed as the agent of service for process. She also spoke at a FREE VENTURA PAC meeting hosted at Godspeak Calvary earlier this year, taking credit/ownership for the launch of the paper. Amy Chen is a Godspeak Calvary congregant and close friends with Rob McCoy, who endorsed her school board run in 2018.
Amy Chen stated the paper is all about "truth," while having printed multiple pieces that have a litany of baseless claims that attack community members and teachers.
The entity address listed for this “publication” is listed as: 4607 Lakeview Canyon Road, STE 433 in Westlake Village. It’s a PO Box at a UPS Store.
The March 2020 Statement of Information listed these officers for the Conejo Guardian:
* CEO as Jennifer Weir (interviewed for area 2 CVUSD vacant seat but was not selected)
* Secretary as Amit Gupta (wife is Avani Gupta, active California Parent Alliance member)
* CFO as Brian Shin
In December 2020, there was an updated Statement of Information:
* CEO as Amy Chen (who replaced Jennifer Weir at this time for reasons unknown).
* Secretary as Amit Gupta
* CFO as Brian Shin
Then, on Feb. 1, 2022, another updated Statement of Information:
* CEO as Brian Orta (his wife of Lindsey & Lindsey Wealth Management has business ads placed in the paper)
* Secretary as Amy chen
* CFO as David Glienke (David Glienke is the President of ClearCoast Wealth Management)
Then, filed on June 6, 2022:
* CEO as Amy chen
* Secretary as Doug DeGroote (Managing Director of DeGroote Financial Group whose website lists its main cause as Turning Point USA — Charlie Kirk’s org that Rob McCoy is a part of.)
* CFO as David Glienke
* Additional Officer: Joshua Linn (has authored Conejo Guardian articles, and if the correct Linn, is listed as a Senior Vice President with Beitler Commercial Realty Services and is on the Carden Conejo Advisory Board)
The Guardian’s editor is Joel Kilpatrick, who states on his website that he is “the leader of the Company Christian Fellowship.”
The Conejo Guardian crew was on-site at the school board meeting last Tuesday in full force, documenting the Maple parent who complained, along with McCoy-backed Joelle Mancuso, who’s hoping to take Area 2 CVUSD seat in November and implement an anti-LGBTQ+ student regime. Dean Ortmann, who delivers the Conejo Guardian in some of our neighborhoods was also there with this crew. He’s been pictured at rallies with Joelle Mancuso and was being investigated in LA for a hate crime last Jan. 6, 2021. Dean verbally stalked March for our Lives folk a few weeks ago … driving down the opposite side of the boulevard, parking, screaming, and then repeating for the length of the March. He was pulled over for erratic driving that day. Additionally, he’s close buddies with VC Defense gun shop owner who advertises in the Conejo Guardian and showed up to the school board meeting with guns plastered on his shirt.
That’s who these folks are. These are the people behind the hate-filled propaganda paper that hits your porch once per month.
The IRS only lists a 990 from them for Tax Period: 2020 (01/01/2020 - 12/31/2020) which is for orgs that receive less than $50,000 annually. This is interesting. How is a 24-page color publication with a circulation of 44,000 per month, operating for under $50,000?
NOW LET ME ADD: ... Conejo Guardian is registered as a 509A2 public charity. What does this mean?
The main difference between 501c3 and 509a2 Private foundations, 509a1, 509a2, and 509a3 public charities, and private operating foundations all fall under the 501c3 tax-exempt status.
A 501c3 organization is presumed to be a private foundation until they prove they are public charities. Once they have proved they are a public charity, a nonprofit will be distinguished as a 509a1, 509a2, or 509a3 public charity. This is important because donations to a private foundation and public charity are taxed differently. Your supporters will want to know the difference.
Donors who give to a public charity can deduct up to 60% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) on their annual taxes. A donation to a private foundation may be limited to 30% of their AGI.
3. Private foundations vs. public charities
A single individual or business generally creates private foundations. A private foundation must be built to meet the charitable priorities of a 501c3 organization. The founder will often donate a significant amount to invest and create income and thus retain a significant pull over the organization’s activities. Private foundations will provide grants to organizations that have programs that meet the foundation’s goals.
Public charities carry out specific charitable activities that qualify the organization for tax-exempt status as a 501c3 organization. These public charities must solicit donations from the public.
The main difference between the two is how they collect funds. Private foundations can receive a majority of their income from investments. A public charity must receive mostly public support over five years.
This is interesting ... their 501a2 status as a public charity would require that it must receive mostly public support versus income from investments. Most of its officers run wealth management investment firms. Are these the "public" "donating" to this organization to fund such a massive operation?
I first start digging into this mysterious new newspaper back in May of 2020. Information was scarce on both their website and the paper itself, leaving very little toward identifying who is behind the opinion pieces and 39,000 circulation paper. And so, I emailed them.
By May 15, 2020, they had updated their website, although I never received a response from them.
Here's my May 15, 2020 Facebook post detailing this further:
“As of today, they've updated their "About" page with a Certificate of Good Standing. They are listed under the Franchise Tax Board ... but they are not exempt. They never responded to my inquires via email, Facebook or Twitter about an EIN, which make sense ... since they're not tax-exempt.
To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.
These are prohibited as a tax-exempt nonprofit:
Sounds like we know why they're not a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation.
So, whose pocketbook is benefitting from the donations this corporation receives? We already know about its political motives ...”
NEW INFORMATION: The above post, as mentioned, was made on May 15, 2020. On Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, I decided to revisit the website to review if there were any updates. Some noticeable ones are below. I visited the CA Secretary of State website and selected corporation, and entered "Conejo Guardian" to find the filed paperwork.
So, that's interesting. I don't recall seeing Amy Chen's name listed as the Agent of Service of Process for the Conejo Guardian when I first researched back in May 2020. For those who aren't familiar with Amy Chen, she is a former CVUSD school board candidate who lost in 2018, and was notorious for having created the paper shell of a fake nonprofit, in order to be able to claim a ballot designation of "educational nonprofit director." I'm not kidding. You can read all about it in the website I created exclusively to address this issue back in 2018, in order to bring awareness to the corruption taking place locally. (NOTE THIS, because I'm going to circle back to it later.)
What is an Agent of Service of Process? Legal Zoom describes it as:
"Before you form a corporation or limited liability company, you’ll need to choose an agent for service of process. The term sounds like complicated legal jargon, but the concept is really quite simple. An agent for service of process is a person who receives lawsuits and other documents on behalf of your business. Depending on the state where you live, the agent may also be referred to as a registered agent or statutory agent."
And then, I clicked into the documents, and noticed some changes between the SI-COMPLETE (Statement of Information) documents as filed on March 21 and Dec. 13 of 2020.
The Conejo Guardian registered as a domestic nonprofit corporation on 3/2/2020. Its ASOP is a service corporation. The business address appears to be a PO Box at a UPS store in Westlake Village. The Statement of Info for March 21, 2020 lists:
I've long wondered if Amit Gupta has any relation to Avani Gupta, an active member of California Parent Alliance (CPA). (This link seems to connect the two.) CPA is an anti-public school, anti-health and sex education movement launched by Tim Cooley, a first cousin of Sandee Everett. CPA describes itself as: “We are a California non-profit non-partisan organization dedicated to defending parental rights.” They show up in force to CVUSD school board meetings to express outrage over the discussion to update the health and sex ed curriculum to adhere to state law (California Healthy Youth Act), due to its inclusivity being in conflict with their transphobic and homophobic ideals.
The Statement of Info for Dec. 13, 2020 lists:
Additionally, on Aug. 1, 2021, I ran a search through the IRS for further paperwork on Conejo Guardian given their asks for donations.
On June 9, 2020 ... three weeks after asking I had prodded for information last year, Conejo Guardian obtained a statement from the IRS declaring it a charity under IRC Code 509(a)2.
What's that mean?
Via the Foundation Group: Revenue Source: Contributions, Program Revenue, and Investments - 509(a)(2) StatusA public charity recognized under sub-section 509(a)(2) is one that, normally receives not more than one-third of its financial support from gross investment income and receives more than one-third of its financial support from contributions, membership fees, and gross receipts from activities related to its exempt functions (subject to certain exceptions).
Similar to the 509(a)(1), a 509(a)(2) likely receives donation support. In addition, a portion of its revenue comes from investment income (limited to 33% of total income), membership dues, and/or program revenue, the latter being money earned from the sale of goods and/or services that are directly related to the nonprofit’s exempt purpose.
In 2020, the organization listed less than 50k in donations/investments/funds. I find that pretty interesting. I spoke with another local publication about estimated cost to produce and print and distribute 39k circulation (estimate 20-25 pages) once per month, and it was estimated at $10k per run, which would put Conejo Guardian into $100k range, give or take given March 2020-December 2020 monthly distribution cycle. If they're anywhere near this ... something feels off.
The Conejo Guardian is known for its heavily biased far-right op-eds and "letters to the editor" section, grammatical errors, and "articles" written by community members like Frank Enderle (a realtor who keeps running for political office to boost his name recognition and is a frequent commenter in the private Facebook group: Conservative Moms of Conejo Valley); Cheryl Bisera, a vocal voice in the conservative community; and Linda Nicolosi — the wife of deceased "father of conversion therapy" Joseph Nicolosi, whose books projecting anti-LGBTQ+ ideology were removed from Amazon stemming from backlash over the trauma his works have caused.
Anyway, that's the scoop on the Conejo Guardian that gets delivered to your door once a week. It's a far-right propaganda piece managed by Amy Chen, filled with slanted opinion pieces disguised as "reporting" to ... "move the needle." This group long talked about seizing opportunities to post misinformation on Next Door, where they acknowledged that even if it gets taken down, they'll at least get eyes on it. Creating a local paper is part of that long-term strategy to "take back America" and "turn it Red."
************** DEC. 27, 2021 UPDATE*********************
Few things, I have some thoughts on some of their editions detailed HERE and HERE and HERE ... and here's a deeper dive that includes a bit of context ... HERE.
OK, now remember how I mentioned Top Goal Education? I need to come back to that because there's NEW INFORMATION on that front as well.
The paperwork shell of a nonprofit Amy Chen created in 2018? Welp, it looks like in 2020, Amy wasn't busy just shoring up paperwork for a conservative propaganda paper ... she also wanted to clean up that whole mess about the fake nonprofit. SO, TWO years after the fact, based on the March 30, 2020 dated document verifying nonprofit status via the IRS, she started working to legitimize the paper shell. She was a busy girl during the onset of COVID, wasn't she? In December 2019, a new statement of information was filed, and by May 2020, it was electronically filed by the secretary of state.
There's still no official website or information, or program brochures of services or support being offered to any student anywhere ... so um, really not sure what their end game is here with keeping up paperwork documents for a nonprofit that has never materialized in real form or service.
What I really want to know is ... who is funding this all?
Who is funding the Conejo Guardian? They've clearly got a funder. It's not like some secret underground grassroots op happened for them to fund a monthly community paper. I'm wondering if Rob McCoy is involved in the funding in any capacity.