Donations to Occupy Wall Street have nearly dried up, and even as it's spent the majority of money it's raised, an accounting volunteer said there are no fund-raising plans aside from just going about the business of being Occupy Wall Street. A line in Buzzfeed's Tuesday story that Occupy was looking to hire an accountant stuck out: "Donations have slowed to a trickle." It seemed shocking. This is the group that raised half a million dollars after a little more than a month of its existence. It's the group that approved $29,000 to fund an Egyptian expedition (though later canceled it) and allocated $25,000 for one protester's bail. It recently set aside about $100,000 for future bail payouts. It has an office space in downtown New York, allocates some $10,000 per week just for food, and houses many of its hardcore volunteers, Haywood Carey, a member of the accounting working group, told The Atlantic Wire. The group's weekly operating costs hover somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000, Carey estimated. Occupy has taken in $732,632.73 since its inception, and as of Wednesday, Carey estimated that at closer to $190,000 left to spend, which is slightly lower than the $230,000 that BuzzFeed reported.
With this kind of money moving through its accounts, shouldn't Occupy be freaking out about a near-stoppage of revenue? Shouldn't it be planning a massive fundraising push? It's not. But the folks who handle the money are confident they'll stay in the black all the same, as long as they do the things Occupy set out to do: Make a big public stink about the issues they want to address.
"Occupy Wall Street has never had a fundraising plan other than a couple of folks with a couple of buckets in a park," Carey said, as we sat in the large communal room in the group's Lower Broadway office. That's not 100 percent true. There's also a "donation" button on its website. Occupy may see that as the electronic version of a bucket in a park, but it's a really big bucket, and you can see it from nearly anywhere you can get online (except China). "Folks from around the world donate to us because of our actions," Carey said, pointing us toward the donations and expenses the accounting group posts online. "If you look at the [donation] trends, they trend directly with our actions. The march on the Brooklyn Bridge, occupy our homes, Goldman Sachs, the port shutdown."
When Occupy gets into the news, people donate money. And when it fades out, as it has done in the last few weeks, the donations dry up. "The idea that we're going to go broke is absurd," Carey said. "Occupy Wall Street is still the hottest thing around. We raise money when we get out there and when you see us in the streets." But he said the end of the movement's presence in Zuccotti Park had cost it donations because it had cost it publicity. "There's been a tapering off of donations lately. Most of that has to do with the loss of the park. It was our most visible symbol." So what's to stop people from getting the impression that every big, public action is a fund-raising ploy? "We were never here to raise money," Carey said. "That's a byproduct ... We don't do actions to raise money. We do actions because that's the only way we can turn this country around."
Carey was adamant that the group would oppose any proposals for fund-raising drives. "There's a sizeable and serious resistance towards going to a traditional form of fundraising, with robo-calls, canvassing, spamming," he said. "We don't need to go back to the same DNC model of fundraising. We're trying to show people a different way of doing it."
Fortunately for the group's bottom line, it has some big backers, and some actions coming up with some big names attached. D.J. Spooky is throwing a party for the People's Library on Wednesday night. New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez is trying to donate his $5,000 stipend to the movement. A Sunday Martin Luther King Jr. Day action features Patti Smith and Steve Earle. And then there's the big Occupy Congress action planned for Monday in Washington, D.C. Expect to see another spike in that "donations" category on Occupy's books.