Port: Money unaccounted for, and almost zero scrutiny

It's not like we're talking about jaywalking. This is something that matters.

From left, activists Tara Houska, Jane Fonda and Winona LaDuke spoke of the civil rights and climate change threats they say Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project brings to northern Minnesota. Shannon Geisen / Forum News Service
We are part of The Trust Project.

CORRECTION: This column originally reported that the Freshet Collective had made a public financial filing since 2017 when the group reported having more than $2 million in assets. That was incorrect. The group made a filing in 2018 showing more than $840,000 in assets. The column and headline have been corrected to reflect the accurate information.

MINOT, N.D. — Tara Houska was a campaign advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign and is currently a prominent anti-pipeline activist.

She's currently involved in the activism against Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement project.

On September 4, she appeared alongside four far-left congresswomen - Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri - who were demanding that President Joe Biden block further construction on the line.


But back in 2016, Houska raised millions to pay for the bail, fines, and legal fees of activists arrested during the often violent protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline here in North Dakota.

A lot of that money isn't accounted for, according to recent reports .

Houska's nonprofit group, called the Freshet Collective, claimed in public filings to have just over $2 million in assets at the end of the 2017 fiscal year. A subsequent filing from 2018, recently published on the group's website, which according to came back online on Sept. 10, showed the group had more than $840,000 in assets.

Since then, there have been no further filings, and attempts to find out from Houska directly what has happened to those millions by journalists ( I tried contacting her last year ) have been unsuccessful.

How can someone speak at events next to high-profile members of Congress, and even be recognized by other activist groups for "outstanding climate initiatives which give change agents and the public inspiration to model and replicate for continued climate action across the nation," without facing heavy scrutiny for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unaccounted for donations?

For context, consider that in 2013 former right-wing Congresswoman Michele Bachmann came under intense scrutiny over accusations of less than $50,000 in inappropriate campaign spending (she would ultimately announce her retirement from Congress during the investigation).


Activists, who included Jane Fonda, Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska, and others march toward a Line 3 pump station on Monday, June 7m 2021. Photo provided by the Giniw Collective.png
Activists, who included Jane Fonda, Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska, and others march toward a Line 3 pump station on Monday, June 7, 2021. Photo provided by the Giniw Collective.

The scrutiny was appropriate. Bachmann was a member of Congress and a presidential candidate.

If that was a major news story, shouldn't this be at least a medium-sized one? All the more because it pertains to someone who is still, very much, in the public limelight today?

It's not like we're talking about jaywalking.

This is something that matters.

"The nonprofit's donors and the general public need to know what happened to these funds," CharityWatch executive director Laurie Styron told the Washington Free Beacon .

Houska and the Freshet Collective are only part of the story, too. Millions were raised during the #NoDAPL protests by hundreds of groups, and there's been little in the way of public accountability for any of those funds.

Meanwhile, many of the groups and individuals involved in that fundraising continue, like Houska, to be very active in various sorts of left-wing activism.


It's a rich story vein for any reporter willing to buck the news media's generally credulous stance toward left-wing political initiatives.

To comment on this article, visit

Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What to read next
If there's some red line that Trump could cross, some depth he could stoop to in words or action, that would cost him the support of North Dakota's delegation, he doesn't seem to have crossed it yet.
"Do we want conservatism to be seen as a pragmatic set of principles for balancing our collective need for a government with the rights of individuals? Or the gospel of some fire-and-brimstone bible-thumper who has never met a conspiracy theory he didn't cotton to?"
Columnist Roxane B. Salonen writes, "Only time can heal the great loss we feel when our loved ones die—and even that, imperfectly. But there is something deeper, and truer, than what we can hold in this world. It is love. And the love of a mother does not end at death."
Jenny Schlecht explains how a "where are you" call led to an evening of protecting barn cats and hunting raccoons.