Update 5:35 pm—There's been some more clarification of all that's happened today, courtesy of occupier Carrie Medina, a volunteer on the social media team, and some other sources. Turns out nobody really had it all the way right today. It's also true, as one of our commenters quickly pointed out, that hacker collective Anonymous got involved.
So Sarah updated previously about the return of the occupyportland.org domain name—a move confirmed by one of the group's spokesmen, Jordan LeDoux, and then again in a release from the old occupyportland.org media email account. (Although my last check still showed the site being redirected to occupypdx.org.)
But what about the money? It's still not missing, although it was incorrectly reported by occupiers as being sent over to Reid Jackson's unauthorized nonprofit (he really is a "he," by the way). The money (still maybe just $10,000, although even that's not quite clear) is still in the PayPal account of the unidentified finance committee member who was apparently getting itchy about getting stuck with a giant tax bill.
Medina wouldn't comment on this, but the money would have likely ended up in the nonprofit if Anonymous didn't step in and not-so-subtly direct occupiers—just in time—to a meeting the PayPal holder was holding with an attorney. She did say that the PayPal holder agreed on camera to work with the movement, despite frayed tensions, to ensure that the camp would still draw from it for expense per usual.
His mistake, Medina said, was panicking and working with the group behind the nonprofit instead of waiting for the movement's general assembly to finish restructuring the finance committee and then take up questions about how to safely store its donations. Among the possibilities: another nonprofit, a political action committee, or a partnership with an established nonprofit.
"We never got a chance to discuss that," Medina says.
Transparency had been a big concern driving recent changes. One reason why record keeping is so murky: Donations had been routed to the camp's info desk, with one person charged with collecting them and then handing them over to the man with the PayPal account. Meanwhile, a spending committee was recently created to split the money managers from the money spenders. Purchases of $750 or more now need to go to the GA. Previously, the finance committee handled disbursements, with people either filling out requests or seeking to be reimbursed after spending money.
Update 4:28 pm—As of 4:09 pm, the guy who bought the OccupyPortland.org domain name has transferred it back to the original Occupy Portland web organizers. /endupdate
The original post starts after the jump now.
This morning I broke the news that a member of Occupy Portland's finance committee had started a likely unauthorized nonprofit bearing the local movement's name. This afternoon the Oregonian got hold of the story—also reporting that not only was the nonprofit started, but that some $20,000 in donations might be missing and that someone also locked the group out of its website.
Okay. Let's all take a big breath. It's not quite what it seems—although what did actually happen really did piss off occupiers and is seen nonetheless as a serious breach of trust. So, what happened? Let's take it step by step.
First off, "missing" is not the right word when mentioning the money. Neither, maybe, is $20,000. (I'm told $10,000 is a far more accepted number—but it's not great that nobody exactly knows.)
A finance committee member, according to two different occupiers, has control over the money—moved from a personal PayPal account into the newly formed nonprofit, started by someone identified as Reid Jackson. The person holding the Paypal account was worried about his personal tax liability.
Restructuring the movement's finances was on the table, but the account holder refused to wait for the group's consensus-driven general assembly to approve another option and started the nonprofit. That's a big sin among this group—you'll remember that devotion to the general assembly's agreed-upon message was the only reason some occupiers got themselves arrested on SW Main Street this month.
Communication between Jackson and occupiers is a bit strained right now, based on what's been a somewhat bellicose response to the nonprofit move by some of the organizers. Spokesman Jordan LeDoux says Jackson has control of the money but that there's been limited access.
"It's a matter of timing and communication and transparency and respect for others," says Reid Parham, a media liaison speaking for himself, not for the group. "That's the real story. it's interpersonal conflict as opposed to criminal conduct."
Jackson allegedly talked to the O, although they called him (the pronoun Parham and LeDoux used) a "she." Jackson's quotes are troublesome, and invoked the notion of protection from infiltration: "I've tried explaining it to them, but they won't listen to me. There is someone who has infiltrated the group and is trying to capitalize on the money."
As for the Web fiasco, that was a different person acting independently, and without any justification, I'm told. One thing the O got wrong initially: Occupy Portland isn't locked out of the domain name occupypdx.org. That's, in fact, the site they've begun ghosting over content from occupyportland.org.
Spokesman LeDoux explains:
Another individual from the finance committee “bought” the OccupyPortland.org domain name from the person that originally registered it and changed the DNS so that for a while, all traffic to OccupyPortland.org was disrupted. After posting several pages, the traffic is now redirecting to our alternate URL, OccupyPDX.org but all of the email to the domain addresses are being lost or going to the individual directly. Also, the traffic can be redirected/blocked/messed with again at a moment’s notice. All of this again was a unilateral action by a single person without consulting or consent from the GA.
But, hey, holy shit... this still all shows that no matter what the organization or the politics at play, finances are a messy sum'bitch to contend with. Last night, the general assembly spent two hours agreeing, ironically, on a way to restructure the finance committee. Parham says he thinks the changes were partially related to the disputes that simmered over in battle over the nonprofit.
Some occupiers don't want money at all. While others say, no, you need it to procure things for the camp, like gas to plug in computers and lights and cooking devices and guitar amplifiers. And, reasonably, a nonprofit is probably the safest place for all this money to go.
Still, the bigger message: DON'T PISS OFF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. Say it again: DON'T PISS OFF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. That's one reason why LeDoux, when talking to the O, was probably as growly as he was this afternoon. No matter the intentions, the group won't tolerate that.
Here's his release:
Over the past 48 hours two unfortunate events have taken place that we at Occupy Portland are still working through.
1. A non-profit corporation (Occupy Portland, Inc.) [http://egov.sos.state.or.us/br/pkg_web_name_srch_inq.show_detl?p_be_rsn=1546777&p_srce=BR_INQ&p_print=FALSE] was registered by a member of the finance committee after promising that no so action would take place before proposing to the OP General Assembly. In fact, the OP GA has been working diligently on proposal that have passed [http://occupypdx.org/2011/10/26/general-assembly-notes-full-10-25-2011/#more-1407] to provide a fully open and transparent view into the movement’s finances.
2. Another individual from the finance committee “bought” the OccupyPortland.org domain name from the person that originally registered it and changed the DNS so that for a while, all traffic to OccupyPortland.org was disrupted. After posting several pages, the traffic is now redirecting to our alternate URL, OccupyPDX.org but all of the email to the domain addresses are being lost or going to the individual directly. Also, the traffic can be redirected/blocked/messed with again at a moment’s notice. All of this again was a unilateral action by a single person without consulting or conesnt from the GA.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PORTLAND, ORE. — Individuals on the Finance Committee at Occupy Portland were able to take control the protest’s domain name and and associate email addresses late Tuesday evening. Additionally, in a somewhat ironic twist, these individuals formed a (non-profit) corporation to which they transferred all of the money which had been collected for the movement through kind donations from our community.
The emails that were being used maintain contact the with the press, organize our online group discussions, and control the technical means of organization were all taken over by a handful of individuals that were able to get the passwords to these systems then lock everyone else out.
Unless restored immediately, OccupyPortland.org is no longer affiliated with our protest or our movement. The Finance Committee members that have acted on their own will need to account for their own actions. We cannot state with certainty the amount of the donations that were taken in through the internet. We will use all means at our disposable to account for every dollar and make this transparent as soon as possible.
We have restored the website at the backup address, OccupyPDX.org, and have full control over this domain and all of its email addresses. Nothing originating from OccupyPortland.org should be trusted to represent the Occupy Portland protest or the people of the Portland General Assembly. No emails originating from this address are affiliated any longer with any part of Occupy Portland.
If anything, this incident illustrates the very reason we are protesting. Our protest against corporate power and control is now colored by people who have used this very structure we are protesting against to deprive us of donations and resources that the community as a whole helped establish for our protest.
The ways in which these things happened is a perfect illustration of the corruption and secrecy that are problematic at every level of our society.
We have attempted to reach out to these individuals, but they have assured us that they have no intention of changing their course of action. In light of this, the public should understand that they are willfully and falsely representing themselves as speaking for the Occupy Portland General Assembly.
None of these actions were approved by the General Assembly. None of these actions were even explained to the General Assembly. These two things are facts which are impossible to dispute.
Occupy Portland will continue our protest in deference to the General Assembly, and will not let this distract us or slow us down. It is a shame a few people act in interests against the will of the movement, but in the greater scheme of things it will not matter. It is a minor bump in a road that is laden with mines on the path to achieve Accountability, Transparency and Justice.