WASHINGTON ― WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing platform, is planning to offer a reward for documents related to the U.S. election, such as Donald Trump’s tax returns or intel on Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Goldman Sachs, a banking powerhouse that paid her to give speeches. This appears to be the first time the news outlet has publicly announced a financial incentive for information that directly relates to an election.
“Police rewards produce results. So do journalistic rewards,” a spokesperson for Sunshine Press, of which Wikileaks is a project, told The Huffington Post in an email. “Those who take the truth seriously leave no stone unturned to find it.”
The spokesperson did not say what the amount would be, but noted “we are reviewing the suggestions” on Twitter.
Journalism ethics organizations generally frown on paying sources because the practice can undermine editorial independence or encourage sources to provide false information. But the WikiLeaks spokesperson said those concerns don’t apply in this case.
“Some lesser publications have poor quality control and as a consequence are not able to maintain accuracy when financial incentives are involved. Or frankly, even when they are not,” the spokesperson said, pointing to the New York Times publishing false information about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction as an example. “WikiLeaks’ vetting process is strong enough not to be affected by an increase in source contributions.”
Wikileaks has offered rewards for information before. Earlier this month, it announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case of a DNC staffer who was shot and killed in Washington, D.C., in what police believe was an attempted robbery. The reward fed unfounded conspiracy theories that the staffer was involved in the DNC leak and Clinton had something to do with his death. (There is zero public evidence to support such claims.)
Prior to the election, WikiLeaks launched campaigns to crowdsource a 100,000 euro reward for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and $100,000 for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, controversial global trade deals that have been criticized for their secrecy. WikiLeaks has also crowdsourced money for a reward for documents related to the U.S. bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Afghanistan last year.
But this appears to be the first time WikiLeaks has publicly offered financial rewards for information intended to influence an election. Last month, WikiLeaks released thousands of internal Democratic National Committee emails to coincide with the party’s convention. The emails, which showed officials deriding the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), led to the resignation of chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Clinton’s campaign and cybersecurity experts blamed Russia for hacking the DNC and leaking the emails to the news outlet. But there’s no public evidence that WikiLeaks offered a reward or paid for those documents.
Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange has said he doesn’t like either candidate, and that he is willing to publish any newsworthy documents. But it’s difficult to publish more controversial material than “what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth every second of the day,” Assange noted recently. That means Clinton could have more to lose from any upcoming Wikileaks’ publications. (Assange has promised more documents are coming.)
In a poll tweeted by WikiLeaks along with the reward announcement, the vast majority of respondents asked for documents related to Clinton, not Trump. Assange clearly has a particular interest in Clinton, whom he seems to view as personifying the U.S. political establishment he detests. He has pointed to emails showing Clinton is receiving updates about his “personal situation.” Sweden has sought to force Assange to answer questions about sexual assault allegations against him. (He denies the claims.)
The WikiLeaks spokesperson did not provide examples on whether the organization has offered rewards for documents related to other elections, in the U.S. or abroad. A HuffPost review could not find any such instances.