[UPDATE BELOW] "I don't think it's really about the money," Jason Buzi told an uncritical Anderson Cooper yesterday. Next to Buzi's face was an aerial shot of dozens of people swarming around a beach in California, searching for an envelope of cash like zombies sniffing out brains.

Buzi used to anonymously cause scenes by hiding envelopes of money (as much as $200 or so) around California and tweet out clues under the name @HiddenCash. Inside Edition has since identified him, so here he is with his name on the chyron, telling Cooper, "We just want to encourage people to pay it forward."

Pay It Forward, that catchy, intrinsically bankrupt phrase since supplanted by You Do You. Buzi is bringing Pay It Forward back, though. Progress!

Buzi emphatically states that it's not about the money, it's about "the thrill of the search…It gets them out of their living room or away from their phone, and out there doing things with their friends, with their kids, with their families."

Yet Buzi also claims to be touched by the stories of the people who find his money. "Some people, I understand, are really struggling financially and my heart goes out to them."

The net effect is patronizing, insulting, glib. Slightly sweet, yet totally devoid of nourishment. Buzi helpfully supplies the metaphor:

When Buzi tweeted that he wanted to hear from NYC media, we gave him a call and asked him why New Yorkers should care that a rich guy is blessing them with fistfuls of twenty dollar bills. After all, we already have Donald Trump. Here's our exchange:

It seems to me you're just deriving pleasure from watching people scramble for money.

Here’s the thing, you’re a journalist, you’re a writer, right? It seems like some of the people that are writing, they’ve already decided what kind of article they’re gonna write before they even speak to me, and I don’t know if you’re in that category or not. Nothing I could possibly say to you is going to change your mind.

If you guys want to make me like a villain, then I’m sure you can do that. But if you want to really hear me out on why we’re doing this, then…

OK, I'm hearing you out. Why do you take issue with that characterization?

Well I took issue with it because there were a couple local media here, you know, they didn’t like that I didn’t interview with them first, or whatever it was, and they just kind of wrote a smear piece. They took anything negative that they could find about me and my past and they ignored anything that was positive.

I have a long record of volunteering abroad, of tutoring inner-city children, of giving to charity, I’ve got a long record of that. I’ve been doing that for many, many years, like over 20 years.

I will tell you right now—and you can quote this—I’m no better and I’m no worse than the average person. I’m not saying I’m a saint, but I’m not a villain either. I mea,n I’m a businessperson, do I like making money? Sure. But I also love giving back. I’ve done very well in real estate and to me this was my way to give back, and when I see somebody finding our money and it puts a smile on their face, that makes me really happy.

When I see families going out or friends going out and they’re having a good time even if they don’t need the money, but they’re just happy being out there and participating in our scavenger hunt, then that makes me really happy. There’s no business motivation behind this. I mean, I have a real estate business that’s very good. We didn’t start this as a business plan, it’s not a business, this is a way to give back in a fun way, and people are loving it.

Why not "give back" in a more subtle way? Why not find people who one way or another perhaps need the money more than others?

Well, we do that. I’m saying, this is not a set-up charity. This was originally just supposed to be for San Francisco as a scavenger hunt, and I thought maybe we’d have a thousand or two thousand followers. I actually was going to LA for business so I did it in LA, and the response was just so tremendous that I said, “Let’s go with it!” People were begging, asking “Can you come to my city?” You know, any city that you can name. “Can you come here, can you come there?”

I mean, we can’t right now. We’d love to do that. Really it’s just the joy of seeing people being so into it. I’m not marketing anything, there’s no political agenda, there’s no religious agenda. And I can tell you, I lived in New York City for a year and it was really really tough for me financially. I was there from 2000 to 2001 and that was one of the worst periods of my life, and if there was something like this, not just for the money but to get out and have a good time, I would have been all over it.

Are you planning on giving the same total sum here as you did in California?

More. More, because it’s a bigger city and we’re doing two of them. I can’t give away the locations of them obviously, but we’re going to do one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn.

And, you know, I wish we could do more. But really there’s no business thing behind it whatsoever. If this was a business plan it would have been the stupidest business plan invented. Ever. Because, first of all, I never had any idea that we’d get so big. Second of all, I’m spending my own money and friends’ money to do this. You know, it’s not just me. And it’s costing me money, I’m losing money, but it’s really nice to hear people’s stories. It’s nice to know they’re going out there and having a good time.

A lot of people don’t really need the 50 bucks or 100 bucks or whatever it is that badly. For some people it’s a lot, for some people they’re just enjoying being out there with their friends or their families. Their kids. I mean that’s what it was in California. I expect it to be the same in New York. In every place you have some people that are struggling, some people that are doing well, and all of those people across the socio-economic spectrum seem to be enjoying it just because it’s a way to get together, enjoy the outdoors, be with your friends and family especially if the weather’s good, you know?

Maybe it could have been prizes instead of cash. It didn’t even have to be cash, I think. Like, obviously everybody likes to find money, but it could have been something else. I think and people just enjoy being out there just participating with their friends, with their families, even with strangers. And even people that aren’t finding it, they’re saying “You know, I didn’t find anything but I had a good time.” Or people are writing that they watched it on TV or saw it on Twitter and saying “I can’t make it out there because it’s too far, but I love watching it and watching the story unfold.”

I interviewed an economist last week, and we were talking about charity. His point was that the Bill Gateses of the world, people who are engaged with public charity, they do it because they get to control what they give back to society. His point was that if you want to help society at large, you should pay more taxes. Would you support a higher income tax rate for wealthy people such as yourself?

I don’t really have an opinion on the tax rate. I don’t really have a view on the tax rate right now, I mean I pay a lot of taxes and I’m okay with that. There’s so many tax proposals out there. I don’t really have a comment on the tax rate.

And I don’t want this to become political, because if I say “Taxes are too high” or “Taxes are too low,” somebody’s going to become upset and I don’t want this to become a sort of political movement. It’s not a political thing, you know. We have supporters that are Republicans and ones that are Democrats.

Surely you can understand that a wealthy individual just sort of throwing down small sums of money across America, willy-nilly, is controversial.

Well, but it’s not. It’s not that controversial. Most people have been very supportive of it. It’s not about throwing down small sums of money. It’s about people participating in a group event and having a good time. And it’s not instead of things. I give to a soup kitchen and give to an educational foundation, especially here in my local San Francisco area there are foundations that help schools that don’t have a lot of money for after school programs, so I give to those.

But see, why don't schools have money for programs, though? Because there’s not enough revenue coming into the government. So the point that the economist was trying to make is that if you get to decide where this money is going, it's going to envelopes of cash in a scavenger hunt. It's not going to schools and roads and soup kitchens. That's why it's controversial.

But I do pay taxes, I mean…So even when I pay taxes I have some money left over, right? Like if I make, let’s say, $500,000 or a million a year or whatever I make, then I’m still going to have money left over even if I pay 40% taxes, right? So I’m not sure what your point is.

My point is that you’re doing this in the most random way possible, which dilutes the impact your money is making. Instead of it going to the public good, it’s being done as a spectacle.

But it doesn’t have to be either/or, right? Are you saying you want to tax me to where I have no money left?

Up until the early 1980s the income tax rate in this country on the highest earners was close 80%. I’m just saying that what you’re doing is very controversial to me. Maybe I'm just one man.

I don’t have a comment on the tax rate, but what I will say is that I do pay a lot of taxes and I give to charities and that this is just sort of another fun way to give back that we created and it seems to be catching on with people. And you’re saying it’s controversial?

For the most part I would say it’s been pretty positive, the response that we’ve gotten. Overwhelmingly positive, even. I think where it does get lost is if people think this is instead of charity, saying “Why are you doing this? Why aren’t you instead giving to this charity or that charity?” And again, it’s not instead of charity.

Look for @HiddenCash's tweets on Saturday for clues to where he'll be. Or don't.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

[UPDATE]Buzi tweeted out a statement to "set the record straight on some things." After noting that he never wanted his name to go public and that "The idea was to give back to the community," he writes

Although @Hiddencash is a way to bring people together in a fun way, we are not in a position to send money to individuals. Please, please make no more requests like this. Hiddencash is a scavenger hunt, with relatively small cash prizes. We are not billionaires. We cannot pay your rent, your school fees, for your car, your house, etc. We are getting so many requests like this, and we simply cannot deal with it. None of us are in the Forbes 400 or even close.