The owners of left-wing media outlet Occupy Democrats are facing scrutiny online after being accused of enriching themselves with funds intended for political candidates.
Earlier this week, Hamish Mitchell, a popular Twitter user and YouTuber, alleged that the media organization had given no money to federal candidates despite raising close to $800,000 for its election fund.
“The ‘Occupy Democrats Election Fund’ PAC’, run by Omar Rivero, raised $797K from 2021-2022,” Mitchell wrote. “They contributed $0 to federal candidates. And they spent $577k on ‘Fundraising Consultants’. Would @OccupyDemocrats & @OmarRiverosays care to explain?”
Occupy Democrats rose to prominence on the backs of the 2016 progressive movement and helped support President Joe Biden in his 2020 bid against former president Donald Trump. It’s developed a broad following online, but has repeatedly been accused of breathlessly hyping viral content that is often disputed or considered misleading.
Screenshots in Mitchell’s tweet containing the organization’s financial data were obtained from Open Secrets, an independent nonprofit that tracks money in U.S. politics.
The tweet, which was directed toward Occupy Democrats founder Omar Rivero, was quickly shared more than 1,500 times.
In response to countless Twitter users demanding answers, however, Rivero denied that Mitchell’s framing of the data was accurate.
Rivero instead claimed that the election fund operated as a super PAC and was barred from donating to candidates. The money raised, Rivero added, was used to fund a group known as the “Rebel Alliance” that shares memes and other political content on Facebook.
But the answer didn’t sit well with everyone. Axios journalist Lachlan Markay stated that the election fund was not a super PAC but a hybrid PAC, which would allow Occupy Democrats to make donations to political candidates.
“The guy who runs Occupy Democrats is apparently unfamiliar with his own group’s legal structure,” Markay tweeted. “It’s a hybrid pac, which, unlike a super pac, maintains a segregated bank account from which it can contribute directly to candidates.”
Data from Open Secrets shows the organization has given spent $20,000 to support Democratic candidates in 2022, although that money doesn’t go directly to candidates, and can be something like an advertisement mentioning their name. It spent a similar amount, just over $22,000 on opposing Republican candidates. In 2020, the PAC spent $217,865 on targeting candidates, but just $30,000 of that was in support of Democrats.
Rivero was also widely mocked for seemingly arguing that his group had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on creating Facebook memes.
In a now-deleted tweet, Rivero defended his organization’s spending by pointing to the arduous work that apparently goes into meme-making.
“If you understood the time and effort that goes into making viral memes—and the impact that they have—you might respect our work more,” he said.
But the accusations against Rivero didn’t stop there. Mitchell later claimed that the group’s election fund had paid a quarter of a million dollars to a company that was allegedly women-owned but was actually owned by Rivero’s brother.
“The Occupy Democrats Election Fund PAC, run by Omar Rivero, gave $250,000 to a ‘fundraising consultant’ called Blue Deal LLC,” Mitchell wrote. “Turns out, Blue Deal LLC is registered to Omar & his brother. But they sell merchandise???… and they’re ‘women-owned’??? Care to explain, Omar?”
In response to the second allegation, Rivero asserted that none of the money given to Blue Deal LLC from the election fund had gone to him or his brother.
“Neither myself nor my brother have earned a penny from the fund in over two years,” he tweeted. “All of the money goes to paying for the rebel alliance, one tweeter and one graphics designer.”
Whether the allegations will have any effect on Occupy Democrats, which currently oversees a social media presence with tens of millions of followers, remains to be seen.
Rivero did not respond to a Daily Dot request for comment.