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The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are both struggling to bring in money and hold onto members, as the far-right organizations deal with the repercussions of being connected to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The Oath Keepers launched in 2009 and the Proud Boys in 2016. The Wall Street Journal interviewed current and former leaders and members of both groups, and they described how the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers first started having financial issues after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. PayPal booted the Oath Keepers, founder Stewart Rhodes said, even though his group wasn’t there, and he had to ask members to send their dues by mail. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio said PayPal, Stripe, and other credit card processors — including several used by porn sites and gun makers — also banned him.
More than three dozen members and associates of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, and prosecutors are taking a close look at any financial backing by the groups, as well as the roles played by Rhodes and Tarrio; the men did not enter the Capitol building during the riot.
Tarrio told the Journal the e-commerce site he runs to support himself and other Proud Boys has been hurt by the fact that they can’t process credit card payments. “We’ve been bleeding money since January,” he said, “like hemorrhaging money.” Barely making enough to cover rent, Tarrio said he set up a secretive e-commerce site to sell merchandise with liberal slogans like “Black Lives Matter” and “Impeach 45,” but wouldn’t give out its name.
As for the Oath Keepers, former board members told the Journal membership has dropped 80 percent from its peak, and Rhodes said in April that the group has less than $10,000 in its bank account. Multiple board members have accused Rhodes of using Oath Keepers money to put down a deposit on a house in Montana and pay for liquor, guns, steaks, and items from the adult store Alley Katz Nighties N Naughties. Rhodes’ lawyer did not dispute that he spent money on these items.
Ed Wilson managed IT for the Oath Keepers in 2015, and he told the Journal that Rhodes used the bank account “as a piggy bank.” Former Oath Keepers secretary Billy Simmons said the last straw came for him in early 2020, when he learned that Rhodes maxed out his Oath Keepers card three days in a row, so he could go around his $350 daily spending limit to buy a $1,000 AR-10 rifle. Rhodes told the Journal the allegations that he misused funds are “petty, stupid, and salacious” and his accusers are “disgruntled people that have a bone to pick.”