In a statement delivered through his post-White House political action committee, former President Donald Trump alternately lashed out against — and conceded the premise of — a bombshell investigation showing that his campaign, the Republican party, and their shared accounts overcharged donors more than $122 million last year that they had to refund.
“In yet another highly partisan story, the failing New York Times wrote a completely misleading, one-sided attack piece this weekend that tried to disparage our record-setting grassroots fundraising operation during the 2020 campaign,” Trump said in a statement on Monday.
Extensively quoting campaign finance experts, the Times report scrutinized Federal Election Commission filings for both presidential campaigns and reached out to Trump donors who reported feeling cheated out of expensive donations. The investigation found that the Trump campaign buried the recurring nature of the donations in pre-checked boxes and fine print, inundating banks and credit card companies in fraud complaints.
Instead of denying the allegations, Trump claimed: “This was done by Dems also.” But the Times found that the fraud complaints were not evenly bipartisan.
President Joe Biden’s campaign reported $21 million in refunds last year, a fraction of what the Trump campaign had to pay back. The bank officials reported a “negligible” number of fraud complaints, as opposed to the “rash” of ones that “inundated” the Trump campaign. ActBlue, a non-profit Democratic donation platform, phased out the so-called “pre-checked” boxes for recurring donations that its for-profit Republican equivalent WinRed used, according to the Times.
The Times reported on what those policies wrought.
“It felt like it was a scam,” 63-year-old cancer patient Stacy Blatt told the Times. He died in February.
The Kansas man’s bank account was drained of $3,000, he said, without his knowledge, due to the Trump 2020 campaign’s expert use of revenue-maximizing pre-checked boxes.
One pre-checked box read, in large, boldface type:
This is the FINAL month until Election Day and we need EVERY Patriot stepping up if we’re going to WIN FOUR MORE YEARS for President Trump. He’s revitalizing our economy, restoring LAW & ORDER, and returning us to American Greatness, but he’s not done yet. This is your chance – stand with President Trump and MAXIMIZE your impact NOW!
A much smaller sentence below that read: “Make this a weekly recurring donation until 11/3.”
The cash-poor campaign’s aggressive use of fine print fundraising helped them at a key time but they ultimately issued over 530,000 refunds amounting to some $64.3 million — over ten times the amount refunded by President Joe Biden‘s 2020 campaign.
“Bandits!” 78-year-old Victor Amelino told the newspaper — which noted that the repeat billing effort against his savings amounted to nearly $8,000 for Trump’s campaign. “I’m retired. I can’t afford to pay all that damn money.”
While the complaints in the story were leveled against Trump by his own supporters, the 45th president’s statement attacked the Times for their reporting and accused the newspaper of pro-Democrat bias.
“Our support in 2020 was so big—never before seen (received more votes than any sitting President in history, by far), that it has become a major threat to the Democrat Party, which explains why the New York Times immediately rushed to defend their Radical Left allies,” Trump’s statement continued.
The Times report, however, did not defend the Democratic Party’s use of repeat billing. It detailed the lesser extent to which the Biden campaign used these fundraising methods, which ActBlue asserted it is discontinuing.
“Biden officials said they rarely used prechecked boxes to automatically have donations recur monthly or weekly; the exception was on landing pages where advertisements and emails had explicitly asked supporters to become repeat donors,” the story by Shane Goldmacher noted at one point.
“The use of prechecked boxes is not unprecedented in politics, and WinRed said it was simply adopting tactics that ActBlue put in place years ago,” the report noted later. “ActBlue said in a statement that it had begun to phase out prechecked recurring boxes ‘unless groups were explicitly asking for recurring contributions.’ Some prominent Democratic groups, including both congressional campaign committees, continue to precheck recurring boxes regardless of that guidance. Still, Democratic refund rates were only a small fraction of the Trump campaign’s last year.”
The report also cited banking officials who said that few complaints are made against ActBlue while noting that online review websites contain a bevy of such complaints.
“Before our two campaigns, 2016 and 2020, Republicans would always lose small dollar donations,” the former president’s statement continued. “Now we win, or do very well, because we are the Party of Working Americans, and we beat the Democrats at their own game. We learned from liberal ActBlue—and now we’re better than they are! In fact, many people were so enthusiastic that they gave over and over, and in certain cases where they would give too much, we would promptly refund their contributions.”
But as the Times reported, some of those refunds weren’t so prompt at all. And the campaign was only able to pay them back based on subsequent fundraising over false claims about election fraud. In effect: a tidy way of loaning itself money based on a recurring donation regime all-but programmed to exceed federal contribution limits.
Trump’s oft-alleged and never-substantiated fraud claims also resurfaced in the Monday afternoon statement.
“Except for massive voter fraud, this was a campaign that was easily won by your favorite Republican President, me!” Trump falsely claimed.
“Our fundraising efforts, working together with the Republican party, were all done legally, and all with the goal of ensuring that my Administration could continue to Make America Great Again,” the statement went on. “The Election on the other hand, was massively rigged and stolen—and now look what it happening to our Country.”
Trump issued the statement through Save America, a political action committee meant to expand his influence in the Republican party well into his post-presidency.
[image via via ALEX EDELMAN_AFP via Getty Images]
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