EXCLUSIVE: Is Austin Petersen Running a “Nonprofit” Slush Fund?

in Politics by

One of the strengths of the liberty movement has always been the web of libertarian think tanks, institutes, and foundations that work to create content and spread the message of small government. From the Mises Institute to the Foundation for Economic Education to the Cato Institute, there are plenty of libertarian organizations that have done good, honest work.

And then there is the Stonegait Institute.

The project of The Libertarian Republic founder and former Libertarian Presidential candidate Austin Petersen, the Stonegait Institute presents itself as a “nonprofit” organization that aims to “empower activists and advocates to challenge abuses of authority through reporting, training, and advocacy.”

The institute apparently operates with a small staff – only six employees are listed on their website, including Petersen himself.

On every page on the site, there is a large “donate” prompt, so it is clear that the organization is looking for funding. Should liberty-minded donors open up their pocketbooks for Austin’s new project?

What does Stonegait do, exactly?

That is a good question.

Joe Trotter, Executive Director of the Stonegait Institute, states that the institute’s goal is to “connect motivated people with the expertise they need to bring local activism to the next level.”

“Grassroots campaigns are capable of making real change, but they are often hamstrung by lack of resources and training,” he said.

On the site’s blog, which is updated weekly, there is only one example of Stonegait being involved in any real political activity. The institute’s “Donor Relations Officer”, Zach Garretson, spoke in favor of less restrictive marijuana laws at a county meeting in Escambia County, Florida. Stonegait covered the event in an article they titled “Activists Supported By Stonegait Institute Wins Big for Medical Marijuana.”

The “advocacy” section of their site is sparse, presenting the following:

The Stonegait Institute also engages in direct advocacy on important issues. We provide model legislation about important issues and help other organizations with their advocacy efforts.”

There is no model legislation to be found anywhere on the site, or clear examples of them helping outside organizations with “advocacy” efforts.

What about “training”? The institute claims to “provide training and resources to those who want to make a difference in their community,” although there are no examples to date on the Stonegait blog of the organization providing such assistance.

Besides the site’s blog, the only other regularly updated part of Stonegait’s site is their donation page.


Trotter claimed via email that Stonegait is a 501c(4) social welfare organization. Organizations of this nature, per IRS law, must promote the “social welfare” first, and be involved in politics second. As a general rule, to avoid an audit and other potential ramifications, 501c(4) organizations are recommended to spend “50.1%” of their budget on non-campaign activity.

The only way for the public to keep track of these expenditures is by looking at IRS form 990, which 501c(4) organizations must submit every year.

At press time, according to all available public disclosure databases and the IRS, Stonegait has not filed form 990 this year.


Searching for Stonegait on TaxExemptWorld returned 0 results.
Searching for Stonegait on TaxExemptWorld returned zero results.


Charity101 had nothing either.
Charity101 had nothing either.


No results on MelissaData.
No results on MelissaData.


Nothing on Guidestar.
Nothing on Guidestar.


Nothing on ProPublica.
No 990 filings on ProPublica.


Finally, from the IRS itself- no organization named Stonegait has filed a 990 form.
Finally, from the IRS itself, no organization named Stonegait has filed a 990 form.


After reviewing the six largest databases that track nonprofit organizations, none of the six – including the IRS’ own database – have any record of Stonegait existing on paper as a legitimate nonprofit organization.

For all potential donors to know, Stonegait’s budget could allocate all of the money to Petersen’s pocket – without seeing a 990 form, there is no way to know for sure. 

Follow the money

This could all be explained away if Stonegait was still in its planning stages, just getting established and not yet collecting finances.

However, here’s the problem: the Institute claims to be grossing hundreds of dollars per month.

“The replicas of George Washington’s flintlock pistol are on their way to the winners of our September drawings, and I am pleased to announce we have another drawing planned for October,” Stonegait’s donation page reads.

The replicas the site is alluding to were awarded to an undisclosed amount of random winners who donated more than $100 to the institute in September 2016. Replicas (plural) implies that the site grossed at least $200 from at least two donors in September.

It is unclear, due to the fact the organization has no IRS form 990 on record, where that money was spent.

Another tool that could help determine whether Stonegait was a legitimate foundation or not is their EIN number. When asked, Stonegait provided The Liberty Conservative with “C4-4000569”.

This is not a valid EIN.  Furthermore, they would not confirm whether or not they had filed IRS form 8976 (intent to operate as a 501c4).

These two facts together indicate that Stonegait does not exist with any kind of IRS recognition.

Why does this matter?

Stonegait Institute has existed for months, has been collecting donations the whole time- and has done next to nothing.

If it turns out that Austin Petersen, a former Libertarian presidential candidate, is running a slush fund presenting itself as an “institute,” then every criticism of fraudulence, unethical behavior, and lack of legitimacy that has been levied at libertarians gains credibility.

If it turns out that Petersen is running a foundation that is legal, but inactive and ineffective, it distracts and diverts money from the other great pro-liberty foundations available for donors to consider.

Either way, Petersen’s handling of Stonegait provides the liberty movement with a pyramid pile of cause to be concerned.

  • I guess libertarians ought to look for better qualifications from their leaders (or potential leaders). “Runs a click bait website” doesn’t cut it – at least for any legitimate political movement out there.

    • Joe Trotter

      I run the Stonegait Institute (executive director and chairman of the board) and my resume is: Cato Institute, Center for Competitive Politics, Communications Director for Austin’s campaign. Is that not libertarian enough?

    • “Runs a liberty-promoting nonprofit” sure does. By the way, is The Liberty Conservative ad-free?

    • The Liberty Conservative is not a non-profit and must cover it’s operating costs.

    • I would say then it wouldn’t behoove you to vilify The Libertarian Republic for doing the same thing.

    • TLR is a click bait factory, LC is not. There’s the big difference, Tony.

    • Tony D’Orazio We aren’t discussing TLC. We’re talking about Austin’s “non-profit”

    • Shane, you and I disagree on that. But hey. That’s all right.

    • Yeah!<3

    • Even non-profit corporations must cover their operating costs! 🙂

    • Maybe the point of starting a nonprofit that engages deals with public policy has something to do with gaining good experience in the realm of public policy.

  • This is the dumbest article I’ve seen on this site. And that’s saying a lot.

    Side note, Zach Garretson, you’re awful apparently. I had no idea.

  • What reason would you have to assume it is? What’s up with the Petersen hate? He is infinitely better than mango Mussolini.

  • I didn’t realize that donating to Libertarian Party candidates and fighting for liberty at the city halls and state legislatures was a cause for concern.

    • It’s not. Donate to the candidates, not a monolith that appropriates money for you.

      • Zigman

        James, you act like you are concerned about liberty but in reality you are simply a Fascist Trump Troll. Good luck…..

  • Aaron

    Random fact: non profits won’t appear on those sites until they file their yearly 990. Stonegait has been around less than a year so hasn’t filed, hence no info. You could have Wikipediad that information. But for some reason you are on a fishing/smear expedition. Question is why?

  • This isn’t the first time they have went after Austin

  • How often does James Allsup beat his wife? We don’t know, but we’ll speculate all day long!

    • Laugh while you can Austin- we have more!

    • Bring it on! I love free publicity!

    • Why accuse someone of that Austin Wade

    • Haha this hack supports trump? SEE YA!

    • You’re about to get fucked by real journalism, cuckboy

    • Free publicity = opportunistic groveling now?

      Just make sure to bring Gary’s slippers when he snaps his fingers.

    • Austin did you really cry when Gary Johnson threw away your toy gun

    • The point is, making wild accusations without proof that Austin is skimming profits is potentially damaging. It’s also libelous, but that’s another story

    • How often is Austin beat by his wife? We don’t know, but we’ll speculate all day long!

    • Austin Peterson raped me when I was 9 years old. He showed up at my bedside and whispered to me “the free market will fix it”. When my dad came into the room he looked at my dad and said “What is Allepo?” And left out my bedroom window.

    • Daniel Velasco, I hate Trump and his supporters, but that’s hilarious.

    • Stefan Panturu that and probably blocked him on Facebook.

  • Boy, guess it must’ve killed this publication to wait a couple months before writing a hit piece. By a Trumpkin campaign manager no less.

  • So much for honest journalism.

  • If you support Trump you’re not for Liberty or support Conservatism. Lol

    • Petersen is practically cheer leading for Clinton. It’s fine for him since he’s too old to serve in the military should war happen.

    • Cool. If conservatism means losing every four years like a bitch, then I’ll take Trump instead.

    • Pepe Limón no, he’s really not. Austin is behind Gary. He’s definitely a #neverTrump guy too

    • Between the two candidates that have a chance of winning he’s attacking Trump. The choice is clear:

    • I know “free market principles” are the only thing that matter to Libertarians but I seem to remember war being a big no-no to humans in general.

  • First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -MG

    • This is what Libertarians actually think.

    • Don’t worry buddy, I’m sure Gary Johnson is gonna win big this year! And your movement will only grow larger if illegal aliens are granted amnesty and the refugees flood in.

    • Sebastian Balluff Ron Paul and the Libertarians killed the GOP. You guys are WAY off message on conservatism, and have scared away your support. EVERYDAY I recruit more and more of your disaffected members to my party. Keep laughing, you help us the more you do.

    • You can change your party registration here: https://ova.elections.il.gov/

    • “Ron Paul and the Libertarians killed the GOP.”

      Are you retarded? What in God’s name is that even supposed to mean? I’m genuinely curious, I don’t even know what you mean by this.

    • When you look at voter registration numbers, number of voters, fundraising, number of districts controlled, approval ratings (not talking about trump here; but I will in a moment) all of the metrics used to determine the health of any party, It is easy to see that the GOP is in freefall. Aside from the pending trouncing the GOP ticket will receive in November.

      The party structure itself, was dealt a huge blow. You would have had a contested convention in 2012, but huge swaths of delegates were rejected from 40+ states. (Not to mention the circus of state conventions that used simaler tactics) From 2012 to midterms to 2016 Priebus and co. have worked diligently to quell dissention in the ranks. Then you have 16 candidates open the season in all out warfare. It’s good for TV but REALLY bad for political parties. The GOP lost control and credibility. Then…

      Trump. Do I really even need to get into that mess?

      The GOP has been putting band aids on bullet wounds for for a decade. The writing is on the wall, The GOP has all but disavowed the top billing candidate, your down ticket candidates and issues are going to take a pie in the face and there is not much Republicans can do to stop it.

    • Cause if haters hate then let them hate and watch the money (and votes) pile up
      -Libertarian 50 Cent

    • Recovery for the GOP looks grim. Taking away all the metrics of credibility, and reputation; the fact that you represent two ideologies that are fighting amongst yourselves, or that you guys can’t field any activism. It all boils down to an actuarial science issue. You guys have a failing base of support, and without people raising funds becomes hard.

      PEW research states that only %22 of millennials would choose the Republican party, when DTS is included. The same poll also states that when given ONLY Democrats and Republican you only take %36 of the pie. You do slightly better as the age groups grow older. The only place where you have a majority is amongst what they call the “silent” generation. (77-88 years of age).

      Your party is old, and so is the nanny state.

  • Great piece. Shared!

  • He had a twitter exchange where he mocked people who were against war with Russia. He stated World War III with Hilary is better than voting Trump

    • Did you expect any better from a cuckservative?

    • What would you expect from a faggot. He’d rather see his family burn in nuclear fire then give up “muh principles” because trump is suggesting to round up illegals.

  • FWIW, the Stonegait Institute has been a very effective tool to report on issues, and organize activists. We have only been up and running for a couple of months, and pretty much everyone else involved has a full time job somewhere else, so sometimes we are a bit delayed in writing about our successes. We do have a lot of great plans for the future, and if anyone wants to get involved, and/or help us out, please feel free to shoot me a message!

    • James Allsup, I will try to focus on getting the ‘Ethics’ and ‘Journalism’ portions of the training done first, just for you!

    • “Very effective”, yet only one advocacy project in five months.

    • July to October is three months, not five.

    • ITT: Authors at The Liberty Conservative fail to do simple addition.

  • Austin Petersen is a loser

    • Based on conjecture?

    • No based on the fact that he continues to lose in everything

    • For example, the LP nomination

    • I’d like to hear the extent of Austin’s expertise pertaining to mobilizing grassroots activists and winning local elections.

    • Stefan, name your biggest achievement.

  • Another #cuck just like Gary Johnson

    • LOL the alt-right is strong on this page, huh?

    • “Alt-Right” How are you, CNN?

    • Pretty good, Fox News. How are you?

    • Fuck the lot of ye TLR is where it’s at.

    • >fox news
      Mah nigga you could’ve at least been creative or informed and said breitbart

    • The alt right is strong lol…. More like the alt left is strong when it comes to Johnson.. Defend those Clinton numbers 6%

  • Did the CATO Institute or Mises just show up one day with hundreds of employees and details on everything or did they take sometime to grow into the things they are now.. want to talk about slush funds how about the Clinton foundation and Trumps ventures?

  • Please write another piece! We’re fundraising like crazy off this! Don’t worry, we’ll report our contributions. 😀

    • Haha you lolbertarians think you have any relevancy. Your movement died with Ron Paul’s campaign, don’t kid yourself

    • Ron Paul has not been a Libertarian since he endorsed Pat Buchanan. We’re so much stronger than just one person.

    • Glad to meet another Austin with the same mindset as me.

    • Fundraising like crazy, eh?

      What expertise do you bring to the table that would ensure that the money you have raised will “bring local activism to the next level” ?

      What skills do you have that indicate efficacy in challenging “abuses of authority through reporting, training, and advocacy” ?

      What concrete successes of yours can you point to that make you qualified to complete these monumental tasks that Stonegait is supposedly working toward?

      We just want to make sure that libertarian activists aren’t throwing their limited resources down a rat hole, Austin. If you actually are offering a product or service worth investing in, you should be able to answer these questions with ease.

    • Austin Petersen. You could easily put this to rest by posting your submitted 8796 form which you had to legally submit to the IRS within 60 days of operating as a 501(c)(4) organization.

      You could also post your completed and submitted 1024 and/or 990 forms if you have filed those already.

      Also, you should post a copy of your EIN confirmation notice that you received from the IRS to prove the one submitted is valid.

      All that would put this to rest.

    • Hey guys, I have some bad news for you… I found the form you’re looking for… and you’re also going to learn two lessons. One in journalist ethics, and another from our lawyer. 😀

    • Austin Petersen, can you post a copy of the form here? That would be great! 🙂

    • We look forward to hearing from your lawyer. There is nothing in the piece for which you could launch any legal action. If your lawyer is telling you otherwise, he better go back to law school.

    • Lol, your lawyer is ripping you off. But I didn’t expect a bunch of political hacks supporting Weed Man Johnson to know how to efficiently spend money.

    • Wow Austin, you really are like Trump aren’t you? Lol!

      BOIIIIIIII You’re going to jail with Hillary

    • So to recap, cuckboy Austin went from “Please write another piece!” to “YOU’RE GONNA HEAR FROM MY LAWYAH”

      In short: He’s a scared little bitch

    • Whoops!

    • Jeez kids, this isn’t what we need in our party right now.

    • Yikes- you’re required to file the 8976 within 60 days of beginning operations, and your Facebook/website claim you started in June.

    • Hey Austin, enjoy the prison showers and don’t drop the soap around the illegal alien inmates in there 😉

    • According to the IRS, you’re correct James.

      “In general, an organization that intends to be described in Section 501(c)(4) must notify the IRS that it is operating as a Section 501(c)(4) organization within 60 days of its formation.”

    • Well James is a republican so he doesn’t really care about the LP. Lol

    • It’s hard to take a Trumper serious when he tries to talk about ethical business practices.

    • The Liberty Conservative so your logic is “He filed this form a week late so it must be a slush fund”? Talk about reaching….

    • Opening a Facebook page is not proof of starting an organization. I’m pretty sure that paperwork was filed within 60 days of the actual organization. Someone from Stonegait can correct me if I’m incorrect.

    • Also, that letter doesn’t show a filing date, only a date where the IRS acknowledged receipt.

    • Austin Petersen, just a heads up. If you filed the form a month late you’re liable for up to $600 in fines ($20 per day)

      • Joe Trotter

        We were not late on filing it.

    • Paul Cook Their Executive Director gave us a fake EIN, which is what aroused suspicion.

    • The Liberty Conservative what is the point of this? What are you trying to do exactly? Have you received complaints from Contributors? Or is this some sort of personal thing?

    • This doesn’t look good:

    • Defamation of character. But The Liberty Conservative may be right for once…they’re so illegitimate they may be outside the law on this because the most traffic they ever had was today when they decided to try and become relevant by spreading lies about someone who is doing better than they could ever dream to be. I mean…even if there was to be a lawsuit…these broke ass jokes would have to get on welfare just to be capable of getting on a payment plan.

  • What a joke this piece is…

  • Our first project is dropping soon and this article is helping with fundraising so… I guess Ron Paul was right when he talked about… blowback.

    • Ron Paul would be ashamed that socially liberal cancerous subverters like you took over his movement

    • Is releasing your 8976 form and EIN your first project? It should be.

    • The only thing that’s dropping is your poll numbers

  • Remember when Cantwell made Petersen lose his “cool”?

  • It’s an interesting take from a Trump Supporter, but follows his logic say everything you can speculate, have no actual information and see what shit hits the fan…

  • What a poorly written smear piece. Did you even attempt to contact anyone to answer your questions? Maybe next time at least pretend like you aren’t writing a biased predetermined hit piece.

  • The people who work with the Stonegait Institute are some of the most passionate liberty fighters out there. Most of them are constantly working on events and pushing to get liberty minded candidates into office. Stonegait Institute is very very new but has already been having an impact. I’ve been very impressed with them.

  • So let’s actually talk about this.

    1) Stonegait Institute has not even been established for a full year yet, so no, there would be no form to turn into the IRS.

    2) You failed to mention the pro-Gary Johnson commercial that has been produced by the StonegaitPAC and LokiPac, which should be released soon.

    These are only two of the main flaws within the piece.

    I run a prong of the for-profit side of the Institute, Liberty Viral, and I can tell you it is no “slush fund,” but it’s worth it and a great opportunity for liberty lovers to contribute to the cause.

    We could easily bring in more money if we shilled for Trump or wrote inaccurate speculatory pieces, but I’d like to stay honest and true to “liberty.”

    Best of luck with your reviews that you’ve removed.

  • *Republican campaign manager*

    • I would rather have war than live under tyranny as well

    • War created even more tyranny War is the health of the State

    • Zach Garretson World War 3 would kill over over a billion people if there’s no people there’s no Liberty to fight over

    • “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself” – Ronald Reagan

    • I agree 100% what’s the rationale for war with Russia.

    • I’m fighting for our nation to survive. I am not against the use of force I am for war when it is necessary when Americans lives are threatened or when we were attacked

    • Zach Garretson see my posted response

    • The only tyranny is from Hilary

    • If Garretson wanted war so badly he would’ve opted for a job in the military that wasn’t regulated to being in the rear.

  • If is there are over a billion deaths how could there be any Liberty to worry about

  • What is this cuckery. Down vote.

  • James Allsup, the beta?

  • Austin, You could put this all to rest really easily by posting your submitted 8976 form which legally you had to submit within 60 days of forming your organization.

    Or you could post a copy of your submitted 1024 or 990 forms if you’ve submitted them.

    Also you should post your EIN confirmation notice from the IRS to prove you have a valid one.

    • Since when are you people concerned with facts?

    • Joe Trotter “This acknowledgement is not a determination by the IRS that you qualify as tax-exempt”

      You think posting a letter from the IRS confirming the receipt of a Form 8976 is the same as showing you were approved to operate as a 501(c)(4)?

      Oh, my sweet summer child…

      James Allsup is gonna have a field day with you my friend

    • So anyone who knows anything about tax law knows that 501c4s don’t need or require permission to operate as tax exempt for the first year and a half of operation. At that point the IRS reviews your records and determines if you can continue receiving tax exempt status. If James wants to show his incompetent ass to the world again, he’s more than welcome to do so (and I assume this is the “big development” he was touting last night), I’ll just have a fun day schooling people…again…and reaping in enough donations to fund an advocacy project…again.

  • Hey this is a cool article, thanks for giving Stonegait free publicity. Austin too. A+ journalism.

  • Next go look at all the money he funneled out of his presidential campaign through PayPal and stripe…that is all the donor money that wasn’t spent on excessive bar tabs and uber rides. But I guess you gotta do what you gotta do to get enough money to move off your dads futon.

  • Austin basically admitted that Stonegait is a fund for his future political campaigns.

    • Come back when he actually does it?

    • youre an idiot if you supported rand and now are supporting trump.

  • Austin Petersen 2020

  • This is ridiculous. It’s obvious the Liberty Conservative is just a trying to smear AP because he doesn’t support Trump and supports the Libertarian party. The words Liberty and Conservative do not describe Trump so I’m not sure why the Liberty Conservative would support him.

  • In a word… childish.

  • Let’s get to the bottom of this, okay?

  • Austin Petersen

  • Can we discuss the massive flaw in the article? It reference the fact a 990 form hasn’t been filed. I’m not sure when Austin launched Stonegait Institute but it had to be after June of 2016. Based on IRS requirements that form isn’t required until the 15th of the fifth month after the fiscal year. For some reason you imply it should have been filed already. Care to discussion your error there?

  • I sat in a Starbucks not a month ago and talked with Austin about his new foundation and all he hoped to accomplish. It’s in its infancy right. Now. Frankly it takes a seriously penniless blogger to think “hundreds a month” in donations a slush fund.

  • Freedom

  • Never heard of this shit Facebook page before this and now I know why I never heard of this shit Facebook page.

  • An armless blind man could have done a better hatchet job than this.

  • “This non-profit that is less than a year old doesn’t have a huge list of activity”

    No shit sherlock.