Trump Campaign Reportedly Forced To Refund More Than $122 Million To Donors

Topline
Former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign issued a staggering sum of $122.7 million in refunds to supporters in 2020, giving back nearly 11% of the money it raised, according to an investigative report published by the New York Times on Saturday based on an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.

Last September, the Trump campaign reportedly began to initiate the use of pre-checked recurring … [+] payment boxes while processing online offerings. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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Key Facts

Beginning last summer, the Trump campaign and the company that processed its online donations, WinRed, began to initiate the use of pre-checked recurring payment boxes while processing online offerings, Times analysis revealed. 

According to the report, unless donors inspected the fine print of an online disclaimer and manually unchecked an opt-out box, the donor’s credit card would be charged weekly until Election Day arrived. 

In the lead-up to the election, the campaign “made that disclaimer increasingly opaque,” the Times asserts, and eventually added a second pre-checked box that automatically doubled a donor’s contribution.

Eventually, financial institutions became “inundated with fraud complaints” from Trump supporters who unknowingly agreed to these recurring charges.

According to the Times, several banks and one of the nation’s larger credit-card companies confirmed that, at one point late in 2020, these cases accounted for up to 3% of all fraud complaints received.

Forbes has reached out to Trump’s representatives for comment but did not immediately hear back.

Contra:
Trump spokesperson Jason Miller rebuffed the claims of widespread fraud, telling the Times internal data determined 0.87% of its WinRed transactions were subject to “formal” credit card disputes. “The fact we had a dispute rate of less than 1% of total donations despite raising more grass-roots money than any campaign in history is remarkable,” Miller said.

Key Background:
Despite Trump’s defeat on Nov. 3, the campaign’s push for contributions did not die down. Claiming, without evidence, that the election had been stolen, Trump urged his supporters to fund his efforts to “Stop The Steal.” According to Federal Election Commission filings released in January from WinRed, Trump garnered $255.4 million in political donations from his supporters in the eight weeks following the 2020 election. Trump and the Republican National Committee raised more than $2 million daily on WinRed from early November through Dec. 14, the day of the Electoral College vote. Email requests were a crucial component of Trump’s requests for cash. CNN reported that the former president’s campaign sent more than 400 emails and 130 text messages appealing for donations in the first 30 days after the election. 

Tangent:
The Times analysis of FEC filings determined that the Biden campaign’s refund rate on donations was 2.2% in 2020.

Crucial Quote: 
“It felt like it was a scam,” Russell Blatt told the Times after his family realized that $3,000 had been withdrawn from the account of his brother, Stacy, who was battling cancer and living on less than $1,000 per month. 

Big Number:
$720,000. That was the average daily amount the Trump operation refunded to donors in December. 

Further Reading:
How Trump Steered Supporters Into Unwitting Donations (NYT) 

Trump Raised $250 Million Since Election To Challenge Outcome—Here’s Where Most Of The Money Will Actually Go (Forbes)

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