Scammers use pipeline protest to generate flood of cash online.
Scam sites go to nontribal parties
Anti-Dakota Access activists have tapped into a pipeline of cash on crowdfunding websites, raising more than $11 million amid fears about scammers who may be profiting off the high-profile protest.
An analysis by North Dakota’s Say Anything blog tallied 285 pages on GoFundMe, Generosity, FundRazr, Crowdwise and Indiegogo raising money for Dakota Access pipeline protest-related activities, with $11.2 million collected as of Thursday.
The sites range from those posted by prominent groups such as the Sacred Stone Camp, which has raised nearly $3 million on its main page, to scores of pleas by individuals seeking money for supplies, travel expenses and miscellaneous items such as canoes and teepee poles.
One of the more successful GoFundMe pages has raised nearly $100,000 for tattoos in support of the Standing Rock Sioux, which is leading the protest over concerns about the pipeline’s impact on water quality and historic relics.
Say Anything’s Rob Port said the $11.2 million figure is probably low given that he undoubtedly missed some pages, and that 241 of the 285 sites are still open, meaning they are still accepting funds.
“It seems like hundreds of people/ organizations — maybe thousands — put up online fundraising accounts to catch some funds out of the fire hose of online money being directed at #NoDAPL,” Mr. Port said in a Friday post.
Any crowdfunding plea comes with an implicit “buyer beware” warning, given that it’s often impossible to know whether the funds went toward the stated purpose.
But the sheer volume of the Dakota Access-related fundraising has prompted concerns from some tribal members about fraud perpetrated in the tribe’s name. The tribe is raising money on its website to support its pipeline challenge through a PayPal account.
Archie D. Fool Bear said on Facebook that he has heard concerns about those “making a lot of money off the protest … people begging for money or telling people lies about needing money” on the internet.
“A few elders are starting to ask questions. [I] told them I would do what I can. I’m not familiar with the process,” said Mr. Fool Bear, a former tribal council member.
Said Edward Noisy Hawk in response: “I came across someone on the internet in San Diego raising money and claiming to be a chief and great-great-grandson of Sitting Bull. I myself don’t know him.”
Others argued that questions about crowdfunding shift the focus away from the protest.
“Let’s not forget why people are sending dollars. … It’s to combat the oil pipeline,” said Greg Sherwood.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier has referred repeatedly to “paid protesters” making life difficult for locals with demonstrations on private land, highways and intersections.
The state of North Dakota has spent more than $10 million on increased law enforcement in response to the protest, which has drawn thousands of people trying to stop the 1,172-mile, four-state project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced last week that it would withhold a previously issued easement for the final 1,100 feet in North Dakota, drawing cheers from the tribe, which has fought the pipeline over concerns about water quality and historic relics.
Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners accused the Obama administration of bypassing the legal process “in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.”
The $3.8 billion pipeline, which is more than 90 percent complete, would transfer a half-billion barrels of oil daily from North Dakota’s Bakken field to Illinois. The route runs a half-mile at its closest point to the reservation.
Mr. Port, a WDAY-AM conservative talk-show host who has criticized the protest, warned those intent on donating to “be careful about which account you choose.”
“The sheer volume of fundraising accounts makes the situation one that’s ripe for fraud and abuse,” he said.