WikiLeaks Spending Rises Dramatically to $500,000
WikiLeaks’ expenditures have risen dramatically from a paltry $38,000 between October 2009 and July 2010 to more than $495,000 in the last five months, according to a foundation that manages most of the organization’s donations.
The jump in expenses appears to be due to salaries the organization recently began paying staff members. WikiLeaks said in the past — before it began paying salaries — that its operating costs run only about $200,000 annually.
“Personnel costs are a relatively recent development,” Hendrik Fulda, vice president of the Berlin-based Wau Holland Foundation, told the German newspaper Der Spiegel. “WikiLeaks now pays some of its employees salaries. The staff members give the organization an invoice, and WikiLeaks hands them over to us.”
It’s not known how much WikiLeaks staffers earn, or how many staffers receive salaries — the organization is said to have only two or three staff members, but hundreds of volunteers. This information should be detailed in a financial report the Wau Holland Foundation is expected to release before the end of the year.
The report, which was supposed to be released in August, will be the first public disclosure of WikiLeaks’ finances. The organization, and founder Julian Assange, have been criticized by supporters and others for failing to provide a transparent accounting of donations and expenses. According to The Telegraph, the Wau Holland Foundation has recently been issued two official warnings by charity regulators in Germany for failing to file the required financial reports.
Fulda told Der Spiegel that the foundation has received about $1.2 million for WikiLeaks since it began accepting donations on the organization’s behalf in October 2009 via PayPal and direct bank transfers. WikiLeaks has now spent more than 370,000 euro ($495,000) of this money, Fulda said.
This is about 13 times the amount ($38,000) that Fulda reported had been spent for total WikiLeaks expenditures as of July.
However, of the nearly half-a-million dollars spent, WikiLeaks has authorized only $20,000 to go for the defense fund of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. Manning, who is currently sitting in a U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, is believed to be the source who provided WikiLeaks its most significant U.S. leaks, including a classified U.S. Army video of a 2007 Apache helicopter gunfight in Iraq, 250,000 U.S. State Department cables, and logs containing about 500,000 U.S. military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to Jeff Paterson, a spokesman for the Bradley Manning Defense Network, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had promised last July to “split” the expected $100,000 cost of Manning’s defense. Although WikiLeaks has never acknowledged that Manning was its source for classified information, the organization has aggressively sought donations from supporters for Manning’s defense.
ButPaterson revealed last week that five months after Assange’s cash pledge, WikiLeaks had still not made good on that promise. A WikiLeaks spokesman subsequently announced that $20,000 would be immediately released to Manning’s defense fund, less than half the amount Paterson had expected from the organization.
Fulda told Threat Level in July that WikiLeaks had raised $800,000 through PayPal and bank money transfers since last December, and that as of that month, the organization had spent only 30,000 euro ($38,000 then) from that funding. No money is paid out by the foundation unless it receives a receipt or an invoice for the request.
Most of the money came in before WikiLeaks began publishing the classified material believed to have come from Manning. Fulda told Der Spiegel that donations have been steady since the release of documents attributed to Manning.
“Every new publication by WikiLeaks has unleashed a wave of support, and donations were never as strong as now,” he said. “More than 80,000 euros ($107,000) was contributed in one week via PayPal alone.”
This donation channel got cut off last week, however, after WikiLeaks began publishing leaked U.S. State Department cables.
PayPal, Visa and MasterCard all blocked supporters from donating money to the organization via these avenues, though supporters can still donate through direct bank transfers or by mailing a check.
“We will have to see what impact the removal of PayPal has on our incoming funds,” Fulda said.
Although a bank account set up for Assange’s personal legal defense fund — to fight sex-crime allegations in Sweden — was canceled by a Swiss bank, the bank account for receiving donations to WikiLeaks is still open.
It’s not the first time that PayPal has frozen WikiLeaks’ account. The account was suspended in 2008 and in 2009.
“We suspended it temporarily in 2009 in accordance with European anti–money-laundering regulations, for reaching certain limits,” a PayPal spokesman told The Telegraph. “The account was reinstated when the foundation provided additional information.”
Illustration: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appears in Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London last week, where he was denied bail after appearing on an extradition warrant.
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