Surprise! Trump Campaign Grifters Invented Coolest New Way To Separate Fools From Their Money
How the hell does Donald Trump manage to convince so many poor people to support him while simultaneously robbing them blind? The New York Times came out with a wild story this weekend about fuckery at the Trump campaign in 2020 as it tried to catch up to Joe Biden's fundraising numbers. Turns out all they had to do was shout "Look over there!" while running donors' credit cards through five or six times. KA-CHING!
Because if you get caught stealing $120, you go to jail. But if you get caught stealing $120 million, you can give it back and call it a clerical error. And Donald Trump's campaign made a $122.7 million clerical error, which meant it had to give back 10.7 percent of all the money it raised in 2020. But in the meantime, that borrowed cash allowed him to limp across the finish line with ads in swing states during the final weeks of the campaign, then pay donors back with post-election fundraising.
For comparison, the Biden campaign's refund rate was about 2.2 percent. In fact, if you add up the rebates from the Trump campaign and the accounts it shares with the RNC, the total far exceeds refunds from "every federal Democratic candidate and committee in the country combined," according to the Times.
And that's not an accident! Seeking to centralize power after 2016, Trump and Jared Kushner forced Republicans to throw out the platforms they'd used previously and solicit donations exclusively through WinRed, their answer to Democrats' wildly successful use of the ActBlue platform. WinRed is just like ActBlue, except that ActBlue is a non-profit, whereas WinRed ... seems to work differently!
If you've ever donated via ActBlue, you probably got a pop-up asking you to check a box make it a monthly recurring gift. You almost always have to opt in — rather than out — and the Biden campaign only pre-checked the box when the feeder page was a solicitation for repeating donations. ActBlue discourages candidates from setting up their donor pages with pre-checked boxes, but WinRed has no such scruples, so the Trump campaign defaulted to a pre-filled box in March.
Then in the run-up to Trump's birthday on June 14, 2020, they added what's described as a "money bomb," automatically doubling donations with a pre-checked box over fine, light print.
But wait, there's more! Remember how Trump got smoked in August by the Biden money machine to the tune of $150 million, and we all made fun of him for what certainly appeared to be the campaign spending eleventy gazillion dollars to buy a fleet of Ferraris for Ol' Neck Pubes Parscale? Then we laughed some more after Bill Stepien took over as campaign manager and yanked all Trump's ads off the air, claiming it was just a totally normal strategic plan unrelated to the campaign's empty bank accounts.
Well! Apparently Trump didn't like all those jokes about him being unable to get it up, so he told his minions to boost donations and he didn't care how. Which is how the weekly recurring donation box became the campaign standard in September.
So you could donate $500 on September 1; $500 on September 2 (there's that money bomb!); then $500 on the 8th, the 15th, the 22nd, and the 29th. Oh, hey, that's $3,000, which puts you $200 over the federal limit, you scofflaw. Whoops, there goes another $500 on October 6!
You don't realize it until after everything is already in motion," said Bruce Turner, 72, of Gilbert, Ariz., whose wife's $1,000 donation in early October became $6,000 by Election Day. They were refunded $5,000 the week after the election, records show.
Around the same time, officials who fielded fraud claims at bank and credit card companies noticed a surge in complaints against the Trump campaign and WinRed.
"It started to go absolutely wild," said one fraud investigator with Wells Fargo. "It just became a pattern," said another at Capital One. A consumer representative for USAA, which primarily serves military families, recalled an older veteran who discovered repeated WinRed charges from donating to Mr. Trump only after calling to have his balance read to him by phone.
"Republicans are thinking smarter digitally," RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel told Fox News last summer, boasting that the GOP would "outwork, outdo, and outmaneuver the Democrats at every turn."
But wait, there's EVEN MORE! Look how they modified the pitch in October.
Because apparently too many donors were unchecking the box in September, so they had to add an entire paragraph of boldface gobbledlygook to get their numbers up — a practice that continued even after November 3 as Trump flogged his Big Lie about stolen elections.
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. All campaigns make refunds for various reasons, including to people who give more than the legal limit. But the sum the Trump operation refunded dwarfed that of Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s campaign and his equivalent Democratic committees, which made 37,000 online refunds totaling $5.6 million in that time.
Were you concerned this would cut into WinRed's profit margin? Don't worry, kids, WinRed got to keep its $5 million cut of the returned donations, a practice it described as industry standard. Guess who doesn't keep the commission on refunded transactions? Here's a hint: It rhymes with "Fact True."
"The fact we had a dispute rate of less than 1 percent of total donations despite raising more grass-roots money than any campaign in history is remarkable," Trump spox Jason Miller blarbled to the Times. "Our campaign was built by the hardworking men and women of America, and cherishing their investments was paramount to anything else we did."
Which is an interesting way of saying "Federal law obliged us to send back all donations above $2,800 per person, and when people called to yell at us, we quietly refunded the money, so most of them didn't bother going to the credit card companies to make a formal complaint."
Anyway, the Trump campaign has a very good explanation for all of this, and it is BLAME DEMOCRATS, because ActBlue was accused of aggressively deploying the pre-checked recurring donation box in prior years. Or maybe the surge in claims for a refund was because people were so grief-stricken over the rigged election. Whatever the cause, it was definitely not because the Trump campaign was trying to scam its donors into massively violating campaign finance law and fronting it the cash to stay on the air in October and early November. King Donald is a righteous and holy man who would never grift his dipshit supporters out of cash. Perish the very thought!
"Predatory!" said Ron Wilson, an 87-year-old retiree whose intended $200 gift ballooned to $2,300. But he holds WinRed entirely responsible for the debacle.
"I'm 100 percent loyal to Donald Trump," he insisted.
In summary and in conclusion, Trump blew up the GOP's network of fundraising platforms, then destroyed the reputation of the replacement vehicle he'd foisted upon the party by using it to grift on a massive scale.
Slow fuckin' clap.
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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.