Of the $737,000 or so Occupy Wall Street reports it has raised in donations since its inception nearly six months ago, it's managed to spend or earmark more than $700,000 of that, according to its latest finance report. Amid the staples, copies, computers, and materials for its direct actions, it paid for tea, cigarettes, and lots of Metrocards. For the group that occupied Wall Street in the first place, a financial hangover is at hand.
At its peak, Occupy had around $500,000 in the bank as donations poured in thanks to the national exposure of its Zuccotti Park encampment. Now, aside from the $89,029 that remains of its $100,000 bail fund, it has $30,537 to work with, according to last week's report. So where did all that money go? A sampling of some of some of line items in the Occupy budget:
$45,000 on Metrocards The movement moves by New York subway. (Though it's a little hard to tally because some of those are reported as one of a few bundled expenses, such as $87 for "metrocards and earplugs" for the security detail on Nov. 9).
$9,900 on legal expenses Almost all of that going to bail out activists arrested during Occupy actions.
$6,000 on tea and herbs And do not forget the equipment to prepare them, as documented in expenditures slated for the Tea and Herbal and Herbalist working groups.
$7,196 on laundry People living in the Zuccotti encampment needed clean drawers.
$200 on tobacco and rolling papers Zuccotti Park had a Nic@Nite cigarette station.
$2,970 on fire extinguishers These were purchased after the encampment was visited by fire inspectors at the end of October.
$3,000 to make puppets The props first appeared at the Halloween march, but have since been used for lots of actions since (including the one pictured above).
$11,170 to churches Since early December, after police evicted the camp from Zuccotti park, Occupy has paid rent to churches housing displaced occupiers.
Of course, the bulk of Occupy's money went to the kind of expenses you'd expect to see in a burgeoning activist movement: Printing and screen printing for flyers, T-shirts, and documents accounts for some $55,000. Another $25,000 got sent to Occupy Oakland and $10,000 went to Occupy Newark, in keeping with Occupy's principle that it should help fund its sibling movements should their requests pass its general assembly.
Occupy's accounting group declined to comment for this story, but from the chatter on its website not all appear pleased with the way it's handled expenses. One named Monica McLaughlin wrote: "It was never the intent of the donors to support young able-bodied Americans. We should use the money to grow the movement. Period."
But Occupy organizers point out that all of its expenses and budgets were approved through its consensus-based decision-making body, the general assembly. Some members might not like the financial choices the group made when it was more flush, but it's never kept them a secret. And each spending decision was reached by the group as a whole.
With Occupy's bank balance dwindling, Natasha Lennard wrote in Salon today that the movement's momentum -- and the funds its receiving -- has largely transferred to other related projects outside Occupy's sphere. The group's accounting report for March 7 put its weekly budget at $17,090, and its actual expenses for the week at $14,880. Most of that goes to the kitchen ($10,000 budgeted) and metrocards ($4,380 budgeted). "At our current rate of expenditure, we have TWO WEEKS of recurring budgets remaining," the report says.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.