Sometime in September, the Trump campaign and a GOP payment processing company, WinRed, alter online fundraising pages to automatically enroll donors for weekly recurring donations.
Trump supporters donating online have to read a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out of repeating their donation every week.
Over the next two months, the disclaimer is redesigned, becoming even harder to notice and read, and WinRed adds a second auto-selected box. This box automatically doubles every donation, unless it’s manually unchecked.
The campaign is struggling to compete with Democrats’ fundraising results and thinks the scheme will go unnoticed. It does, for a little while.
By mid-October, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee begin issuing refunds to supporters — all of them angry and many of them broke. Between now and the end of the year, more than 530,000 donations are refunded, totaling $64.3 million.
The campaign is going broke, and emails like the one below make their way to supporters’ inboxes.
The email reads: “David, This is your final notice. So far, you’ve ignored all our emails asking you to join us in DEFENDING THE ELECTION. You’ve ignored Team Trump, Eric, Lara, Don, the Vice President AND you’ve even ignored the President of the United States. TENS OF THOUSANDS of Patriots have stepped up for the VERY FIRST TIME in the last 48 hours – why haven’t you?“
When you include refunds that were made before the scheme, the Trump campaign has to payback over $122 million just in 2020. All of these refunds explain why Donald Trump’s fundraising efforts for his post-election “legal defense fund” included a disclaimer saying 60% of donations “help the campaign retire debt.”
Read the New York Times investigation at the link below. One supporter donated $500 and lost $3,000. Another donated $900 and lost $8,000.
Photo: Illustration by The Daily Beast