Occupy Wall Street raises over $150,000

@CNNMoney October 13, 2011: 12:43 PM ET
As the Occupy Wall Street protests gain momentum, the money starts pouring in. The group says it has raised more than $150,000.

As the Occupy Wall Street protests gain momentum, the money starts pouring in. The group says it has raised more than $150,000.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- After 26 days of protests in New York's financial center, the Occupy Wall Street movement has raised over $150,000 in donations, according to Pete Dutro, a member of the protest's financial arm.

This massive fundraising was made through donations via mail, two websites -- occupywallst.org and nycga.cc -- and in person to members of what the movement calls its "Finance Working Group."

Separately, four days ago, "Occupy Wall Street Media" successfully raised over $75,000 worth of donation pledges to be used toward the protest's official publication, The Occupy Wall Street Journal, according to the online funding platform Kickstarter.

In addition to overseeing fundraising, members of the Finance Working Group, distinguishable by their gold dollar sign armbands, are also charged with disbursing funds to the other groups within the movement. These groups, which range from more permanent teams like Security and Media, to temporary teams assigned to isolated tasks, become eligible for funding upon approval by the general assembly.

"It's been chaotic," Dutro told CNN. "It's kind of like doing an office job inside of a mosh pit."

The group is made up of 12 individuals, many of whom have backgrounds in business and finance. As money keeps pouring in, Dutro says, the group is scrambling to find additional qualified people to help with finances.

The team has had its hands full, Dutro explained. "As far as expenses so far, I think we've spent between $30,000 and $40,000."

However, the sudden financial gain has not been without setbacks.

Occupy Wall Street teamed up with the Alliance For Global Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group, to receive tax-deductible donations.

Unfortunately, the initial influx in funding was so large it exceeded the limit the credit card processor, e-onlinedata, had on the AFGJ's account, freezing it for 48 hours. The result: roughly $144,000 worth of rejected donations, according to AFGJ National Co-Coordinator, Chuck Kaufman.

"The timing could not have been worse," Kaufman said. The account froze, "just at the time when potential donations spiked."

But since the account was reactivated late in the day Friday, tax-deductible funding has continued to pour in. After going through the AFGJ, the money is being deposited into Occupy Wall Street's accounts at the Lower East Side Credit Union and Amalgamated Bank.

These are the Occupy Wall Street protesters

The significance of these sudden increases in bankroll has not been lost on the protesters.

"I think that obviously it's going to influence what we're capable of doing, in terms of whether it's getting the newspaper out more often or supplying enough sleeping bags and blankets for people here," said Tyler Combelic, a member of the protest's media group.

Other protest participants have expressed interest in larger long-term goals.

"We are looking for some facilities to help maintain infrastructure," Dutro said. "We're in negotiations for getting a storefront close to the site." In addition, efforts are underway to find a commercial kitchen to feed participants in a more cost-efficient manner, Dutro said.

Managing over $150,000 for all non-media expenses -- amid the high-profile protests and even arrests -- has placed increased responsibility and leadership in the hands of the Finance Working Group.

Dutro describes the Finance Working Group as a "passive entity." But the team's assistance with and potential influence over other groups' budgets, as well as its powerful impact in shaping the overall process, may place it in a position of leadership that has not yet been seen within the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Currently, Occupy Wall Street groups that need money must communicate with this financial team, which is permitted to give them up to $100 assuming the proper paperwork is provided. However, any funding exceeding $100 must go through a General Assembly vote, which has created what Dutro describes as "a bottleneck."

In order to expedite this process, the financial team is proposing that budgets be created for every recognized group. The result, Dutro said, would be more efficient and autonomous groups.

On Wednesday night, the first of these budgets was passed through the general assembly, which allocated $2,200 toward purchasing a new generator and $25,000 for the media group's expenditures, Dutro explained.

He stressed that the finance team was committed to working under the framework set by the Occupy Wall Street movement. "The group itself has been trying to come up with a solution that fits our guiding principles within the protest," he said. To top of page

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