Former President Donald Trump has some explaining to do — not to his critics, but to his supporters whom his campaign tricked into giving out millions of dollars they had never intended to donate. It’s a scheme that is ingenious (for Trump) because it infused a steady flow of cash during his second presidential run when he was struggling to raise funds, but it was done in a deceitful, and often damaging, way that left many of his donors claiming fraud or even in debt. And with the new photos of exactly how this scheme was carried out, it’s not hard to see how the Trump campaign didn’t prioritize transparency with its donors.
New York Times writer Shane Goldmacher reported that Trump’s campaign “set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election.” Many supporters didn’t realize that it was more than one donation because they didn’t read the fine print and didn’t realize they had to opt out of weekly contributions. Goldmacher even included a sample text a GOP donor was sent — it’s confusing to read and requires a proactive response to make sure it’s only a one-time donation.
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The neon yellow boxes are filled with bold text spelling out Trump’s campaign promises of “revitalizing our economy, restoring LAW & ORDER, and returning us to American Greatness.” For the president’s fans, this was easy to support, but they often missed the smaller text at the bottom, which stated, “Make this a weekly occurring donation until 11/3.” That $100 donation suddenly became very expensive for many who couldn’t afford it.
There was even a second box to make an additional donation of $100 on Oct. 9, which was 25 days out from the election. If anyone missed opting out of that donation, they lost even more money. It cost many American citizens on a fixed income thousands of dollars that they needed to support their families or keep a roof over their heads in the middle of a pandemic. It’s not only sad, but it’s infuriating that any politician of any political party could get away with this. And let’s remember, Trump was the President of the United States when he was engaging in this behavior.
Trump wrote a rebuttal to The New York Times, saying: “In fact, many people were so enthusiastic that they gave over and over, and in certain cases where they would give too much, we would promptly refund their contributions,” and adding: “Our overall dispute rate was less than 1% of total online donations, a very low number.”
In fact, the New York Times reports that “in the final two and a half months of 2020, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and their shared accounts issued more than 530,000 refunds worth $64.3 million to online donors” — which, compared to President Joe Biden’s campaign and “his equivalent Democratic committees” total of 37,000 online refunds to the tune of $5.6 million, does not sound very low at all.
The former president also failed to take responsibility for the confusing wording, unclear messaging, and the bait-and-switch tactic that scammed many supporters out of money they did not intend to give. He sounds OK with that result, but it’s a warning to Americans when it comes to contributing to political campaigns and causes — buyer beware.
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