Former President Donald Trump is being forced to return nearly $13 million in campaign donations that were collected from his supporters without their knowledge or approval in a scam that bilked those who donated by immediately signing them up for recurring donations, according to The New York Times:
“Trailing in the polls and facing a cash crunch last September, Mr. Trump’s political operation began opting online donors into automatic recurring contributions by prechecking a box on its digital donation forms to take a withdrawal every week. Donors would have to notice the box and uncheck it to opt out of the donation. A second prechecked box took out another donation, known as a ‘money bomb.’
“The Trump team then obscured that fact by burying the fine print beneath multiple lines of bold and capitalized text, a New York Times investigation earlier this year found.”
While the maneuver greatly increased revenues for a short period of time, it later resulted in thousands of fraud complaints to credit card companies and demands for refunds.
Records from the Federal Elections Commission detail the breadth of the scam, which served as a interest-free loan for the Trump 2020 reelection campaign at a time the reelection effort was dangerously short on cash:
“All told, more than $135 million was refunded to donors by Mr. Trump, the Republican National Committee and their shared accounts in the 2020 cycle through June 2021 — including roughly $60 million after Election Day.”
Peter Loge, the director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication at George Washington University, said the scale of the money that had to be returned and complaints filed makes it clear what the intent of the Trump campaign was:
“It’s pretty clear that the Trump campaign was engaging in deceptive tactics. If you have to return that much money you are doing something either very wrong or very unethical.”
Trump’s new political action committee, Save America, also uses the prechecked box that allows them to repeatedly charge credit and debit cards despite the complaints from those who have donated and later been charged against their will.
Featured Image Via NBC News