Perhaps the most surprising thing about Occupy Wall Street is that it is a financial success. In just four weeks since the protest began, it has raised well over $200,000 and collected far more than that in donated food and clothing.
There has been a lot of speculation who might be financing the protests. One person sometimes signaled out is George Soros, the well-known hedge fund manager who has used his bank-account to fund progressive causes quite a few times.
Soros no doubt supports many of the sentiments of the Occupy Wall Streeters. But there doesn’t seem to be much of direct connection. A Reuters investigation found only the most tenuous connection.
Soros has given money to something called the Tides Center, which is a big central clearing house for leftist funding. People donate to Tides, and Tides acts as a fiscal sponsor and donor to various smaller groups.
One of the groups the got money from Tides was Adbusters, the left wing anticorporate Canadian magazine. Adbusters helped spark the Occupy Wall Street movement with a wonderful poster showing a ballerina atop the Wall Street bull. Behind them, cloaked in smoke, gas or fog, lurks a horde of black-clad protesters whose faces are concealed by gasmasks.
“What is our one demand?” the poster asks, presciently mocking the constant “what do they want” reaction that the mainstream media would have to the protest.
So Soros funded Tides, which funded Adbusters, which designed a poster. So Occupy Wall Street is a Soros plot, right? Well, one problem with this idea is that Soros never heard of Adbusters.
The real story here isn’t the backing of one person but the way online fundraising has allowed Occupy Wall Street to attract shocking amounts of cash. Kickstarter, which allows people to request donations for projects they are starting, raised $75,000 for Occupy Wall Street’s newspaper, Occupy Wall Street Journal. Almost all of it came from individuals pledging less than $85 a piece.
About two weeks ago Occupy Wall Street’s finance working group asked a progressive group called the Alliance For Global Justice to be its fiscal sponsor and receive donations for the group. The AFGJ expected to receive some between one and five thousand dollars. Instead, it was flooded with donations for up to $140,000.
The flood of donations caused AFGJ to exceed the limits of the donation processing account they have with a subsidiary of Visa, which started rejecting the donations.
“We ran into a limit we didn’t know we had because we’ve never seen such an explosion of donations,” AFGJ national coordinator Chuck Kauffman told me.
No doubt the success and persistence of Occupy Wall Street will eventually attract some big donors. But so far it appears there is no shadowy financier committing class-treason by financing Occupy Wall Street.
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