GOP Fundraiser WinRed Flips Sh*t Over Investigation Of Its Grifty Donor Schemes
Remember back in April when the New York Times ran a series of stories about the Trump campaign grifting cash from the rubes using pre-checked boxes to trick them into recurring and double donations? Heck, remember back in 2016, when Wonkette wrote about people unable to cancel their Trump campaign donations, and people with poor reading comprehension started writing to Rebecca, asking her to cancel for them? Apparently the attorneys general from New York, Maryland, Minnesota, and Connecticut read those stories, too — probably the New York Times series, not the Wonkette ones — and decided to do something about it.
On April 29, these state law enforcement officers sent letters to WinRed and ActBlue, the dominant fundraising platforms for Republicans and Democrats respectively, demanding to know all kinds of interesting details about their business and fundraising models. At which point, WinRed flipped its shit, because it has seen what New York AG Tish James did to the NRA, and it ain't pretty.
As a reminder, the Trump campaign was spamming its donors with emails that featured pre-checked boxes opting them in to recurring donations that wildly exceeded both their intentions and federal campaign finance limits.
Burying it under a mountain of incendiary verbiage is a nice touch.
And while ActBlue has, in the past, allowed candidates to use pre-checked boxes, there's a reason that the Trump campaign had to return 10.7 percent of the money it raised in 2020, compared to just 2.2 percent for the Biden campaign. And that reason is that Trump was running out of money for ads in the final months of the campaign, so he ramped up the fundraising grift to 11, effectively forcing his donors to lend him $120 million in excessive campaign contributions which could be repaid after the election.
BTW, while ActBlue is a non-profit, WinRed, which Prince Jared forced on the GOP, is a cash money business.
On June 1, WinRed's lawyers sent the AGs a snotty note claiming that the FEC is the only body that can regulate a campaign PAC and claiming that the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) preempts state regulation of federally registered fundraising committees.
"There has been no allegation that WinRed has failed to satisfy any of its obligations to the FEC under FECA or related regulations—and even if it had, state governments are not the law enforcement entities tasked with investigating such violations," they write. "In fact, federal law has explicitly provided that the Federal Election Commission is the venue for any civil disputes concerning the application of FECA or areas of law in which FECA occupies the field."
Which is cool and all, but no one is talking about whether this grift violated federal election law — the issue is whether it violated state consumer protection laws, as the AGs reminded WinRed in a June 17 letter.
Our state consumer protection laws are not preempted by the Federal Election Campaign Act ("FECA"). The FECA and implementing regulations promulgated by the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") address issues such as the organization of federal political committees, disclosures by federal candidates and committees, and limitations on contributions and expenditures in a federal election. They do not address the states' ability to protect our residents from the deceptive and fraudulent practices under investigation. Therefore, your assertions about federal preemption are incorrect and provide no basis for WinRed's refusal to respond to our inquiry.
At which point, WinRed sent the AGs a link to their publicly available FEC disclosures, and marched into federal court in Minnesota with a lawsuit against the state AGs, demanding an injunctive order from the court saying that states are powerless to prosecute campaign finance fraud in their own states under the FECA. They also claim that state attorneys general have no jurisdiction to prosecute a Delaware company which defrauds citizens in New York, Maryland, Minnesota, and Connecticut — which is a nice touch.
It also put out this batshit statement howling about being politically persecuted.
"Four Democrat Attorneys General are exploiting their positions of power for partisan gain and targeting WinRed for fundraising tactics that Democrats themselves pioneered and still use to this day. While pursuing these actions, these Democrat AGs are actively fundraising on ActBlue," the company wrote, seemingly oblivious of the fact that ActBlue got the same letter.
"Only when Republicans began challenging the Democrats' long-held advantage in online fundraising did these Democrat Attorneys General activate. It's troubling to see these AGs attempt to use the power of their offices for the purpose of helping the Democrat Party," it concluded.
Just so we're all clear here: The GOP has unleashed a wave of deceptive fundraising emails that resulted in hundreds of their own donors angrily demanding refunds after they were tricked into making unwanted donations, many of which far exceeded the $2,750 FEC limit. They're now claiming that only the FEC has the right to investigate, much less prosecute, fraud perpetrated on citizens within a state by a political campaign or committee. And they want the federal court in Minnesota to rescue them so that they never have to 'splain to big, scary Tish James whether it was their plan all along to generate a hundred million dollars in excess donations and pay it back after the election.
Well ... good luck with that one. And we note that these creative legal theorists rushed into the courthouse before bothering to obtain local counsel, getting dinged by the court for it before the case even gets started. Auspicious beginning!
[WinRed, Inc. v. Ellison, docket via Court Listener]
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.