Occupy Wall Street finds money brings problems too

Wed Nov 2, 2011 9:32am EDT
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By Ben Berkowitz and Chris Francescani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Occupy Wall Street has raised more than $500,000 in New York alone to support anti-greed demonstrations and, seven weeks into the movement, protesters are finding that having money creates headaches.

The challenges have included how to become a non-profit entity, how to deal with credit card companies withholding donations, choosing a bank that shares the movement's philosophy and budgeting what to spend cash on.

The totals raised -- more than $500,000 in New York and around $20,000 in Chicago, Richmond and other cities -- have surprised everyone from the protesters to those overseeing their finances.

"I figured they would bring in maybe $10,000, maybe $20,000 and it would be no big deal. They were quickly bringing in that much and more a day," said Chuck Kaufman, the Tucson-based national co-coordinator of Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ), the movement's fiscal sponsor.

"We were surprised and unprepared so it was a scramble to get our end of the system functioning at the volume the money was coming in."

AFGJ is a non-profit group with roots in Nicaraguan solidarity activism of the 1970s that has since used its tax-exempt status to be a financial umbrella for other groups.

Occupy Wall Street pays 7 percent of its takings for AFGJ's support -- book-keeping, tax returns and donation processing.

Although the Occupy Wall Street finance committee's website lists 87 members, Kaufman said the core was about six people, including a lawyer, an accountant and a tattoo artist.   Continued...

<p>An Occupy Wall Street protestor wearing a Guy Fawkes mask takes part in the 39th Annual Halloween Parade in New York, New York October 31, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Burton</p>