Scam­mers use pipe­line protest to gen­er­ate flood of cash on­line.

Scam sites go to non­tribal par­ties

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

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.

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