A deep investigation has uncovered the method Donald Trump’s re-election campaign used to get multiple donations from unsuspecting supporters. Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign tricked its own supporters into making recurring donations, bringing in millions of desperately needed dollars in the final months before election day, according to a bombshell investigation. The New York Times combed through Federal Election Commission filings from both the Trump and Biden campaigns, along with their related entities, such as the two major political parties’ national committees.
It also interviewed “two dozen” Trump donors, plus campaign officials, bank officials, and finance experts.
The result was an extensive story published yesterday detailing the methods used by the Trump campaign and a company called Winsted, which processed its online donations.
The investigation uncovered a “clear pattern” of Trump supporters giving money, intending to make a single donation, only to discover weeks later upon checking their bank statements that they’d actually donated “over and over again”. This ultimately resulted in about $US120 million ($158 million) worth of refunds being issued by the end of last year, though by that point, the cash had already served its purpose.
How did the Trump campaign do it? By using checkboxes, pre-filled by default, to sign online donors up to recurring donations unless they opted out.
When the boxes first appeared on the online donation form, around March of 2020, they signed people up to monthly payments. By September, the campaign had changed them to weekly donations.
“Facing a cash crunch and getting badly outspent by the Democrats, the campaign had begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election,” The Times reported.
“Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt-out. As the election neared, the Trump team made that disclaimer increasingly opaque. It introduced a second prechecked box, known internally as a ‘money bomb’, that doubled a person’s contribution. Eventually, its solicitations featured lines of text in bold and capital letters that overwhelmed the opt-out language.” Banks and credit card companies dealt with a flood of complaints and fraud claims from Trump supporters who believed they’d made a single donation, only to see hundreds or even thousands of dollars leave their accounts.