Stacy Blatt was in hospice care last September listening to Rush Limbaugh’s dire warnings about how badly Donald J. Trump’s campaign needed money when he went online and chipped in everything he could: $500.
It was a big sum for a 63-year-old battling cancer and living in Kansas City on less than $1,000 per month. But that single contribution — federal records show it was his first ever — quickly multiplied. Another $500 was withdrawn the next day, then $500 the next week and every week through mid-October, without his knowledge — until Mr. Blatt’s bank account had been depleted and frozen. When his utility and rent payments bounced, he called his brother, Russell, for help.
What the Blatts soon discovered was $3,000 in withdrawals by the Trump campaign in less than 30 days. They called their bank and said they thought they were victims of fraud.
“It felt,” Russell said, “like it was a scam.”
Oh, it was a scam, Russell. It so was. But let me ask you this. Does Donald Trump have to steal from you directly before you realize this is what he’s all about? Because if we have to wait for Donald Trump to personally grift every human being on the planet before people realize he’s an unrepentant scammer, it will take a lot more than 15 flushes to permanently get rid of him.
Of course, the Blatts weren’t the only ones taken to the cleaners by the Trump campaign.
The Blatts, along with many other Trump donors, were snookered by a tactic in which donors who intended to make one-time contributions instead set themselves up for recurring—in some cases weekly—donations that were automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts. As The Times notes, what the Blatts thought was overt fraud was actually “an intentional scheme to boost revenues” on the part of the Trump campaign and WinRed, the company that processes the campaign’s online donations.
As the Trump team’s coffers dwindled and the campaign was being vastly outspent by the Democrats, it “set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week of the election.” Worse: “Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out.”
Eventually, notes The Times, the campaign made the disclaimer “increasingly opaque” and introduced another pre-checked box known as a “money bomb,” which further increased donors’ contributions. “Eventually,” writes The Times, “its solicitations featured lines of text in bold and capital letters that overwhelmed the opt-out language.”
Just in case you’re tempted to think, well, this is just how politics is done these days—well, it’s not. Not really. We can’t be naive, of course. I got plenty of Biden-Harris solicitations screaming about arbitrary fundraising goals and deadlines, but I never felt outright scammed into contributing more than I wanted to.
In fact, ActBlue, the Democratic counterpart to WinRed, says it has started to phase out prechecked boxes asking for recurring donations “unless groups were explicitly asking” for them. Additionally, while ActBlue is a nonprofit, WinRed is a for-profit company that takes a chunk of every donation.
At the end of last year, the Trump campaign and the RNC issued more than 530,000 refunds amounting to $64.3 million, while the Democrats made just 37,000 refunds worth $5.6 million during that same period. That would indicate that, when it comes to bouts of buyer’s remorse, Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 10-to-1.
Ultimately, the Trump team’s tactic worked, filling the campaign’s coffers during a critical period when its finances were collapsing. After the election, Trump continued to raise money in order to fight phantom election fraud, and he was able to use that cash to cover the refunds he was ultimately forced to issue. “In effect, the money that Mr. Trump eventually had to refund amounted to an interest-free loan from unwitting supporters at the most important juncture of the 2020 race,” notes The Times.
Further, political strategists and campaign finance experts noted that they’d never seen refunds of this magnitude before. In fact, according to The Times, the refunds issued by Trump and the RNC totaled more than those given out by every federal Democratic candidate and committee combined.
So there you have it.
If you don’t want to be scammed out of your money—or your life, for that matter—don’t support Republicans. And definitely don’t go into business with Donald Trump.
But that should be fucking obvious by now, shouldn’t it?
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