The formation of an Occupy Wall Street super PAC by an activist in Decatur, Alabama is sparking a backlash from the movement's organizers in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
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This week activist John Paul Thornton opted to fight fire with fire, filing paperwork with the FEC to establish The Occupy Wall Street Political Action Committee, allowing it to raise unlimited corporate funds for federal candidates pledging to get money out of politics. The irony was not lost on a number of Occupy activists who've long protested the very existence of super PACs following the controversial 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case.
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"This caught us completely by surprise," said Bill Csapo, an activist affiliated with the Campaign to Occupy Wall Street in New York. "I don't think any of us would agree that a super PAC is the right way to go."
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Csapo, a volunteer organizer who handles communications for the the campaign, said he has contacted Thornton to change the name of the Occupy super PAC or else disassemble it completely. "Thornton has no connection whatsoever to Occupy Wall Street or the New York General Assembly," insisted Csapo.
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He added that Occupy Wall Street organizers in New York City planned to issue a statement on OccupyWallSt.org to officially condemn the use of super PACs.
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In Washington, Legba Carrefour, an Occupy DC activist who handles communications for the group, said his organization has never supported using a super PAC to advance its cause. "Been done, been blocked," he said, referring to meetings where members suggested starting a super PAC and the group swiftly voted it down."It went nowhere, no one would support it."
"I think this points to a larger problem with the branding of Occupy," he said. "People have started using the word Occupy very loosely."
To be sure, Thornton has been feeling the heat. "I didn't know this thing was going to blow up as soon as it did," he tells The Atlantic Wire. "There are stronger feelings about it than I originally envisioned."
Thornton said since yesterday he's fielded a number of complaints from activists, some of which he hasn't responded to because of their "accusatory" tone. When asked if he would change his PAC's name or shut it down, he pledged to continue his efforts.
"If this results in some kind of factioning, fine," he said. "There needs to be a diversity of tactics to achieve success. What works is money. We all know this."