Trump campaign tricked donors into recurring contributions: report

In fundraising pitches, the Trump campaign made monthly recurring payments the default in multiple online drives

Some supporters of Donald Trump had a rude awakening after realizing they were donating more money than they intended to the former president’s failed reelection campaign.

The Trump campaign had been deceptively making supporters file for recurring donations rather than one-time payments, according to a report in the New York Times.

Back in March 2020, the campaign website, where supporters could send the money in support of Trump, added an option box to its donation portal that read, “Make this a monthly recurring donation.” What many of them overlooked is that the box was already pre-checked, and they had to manually un-check the box in order to prevent additional payments, accord to the Times.

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Donald Trump (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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A similar fundraising pitch appeared in June, asking for an additional payment in honor of Trump’s birthday. Again, that box in the portal was pre-checked, and donors sent extra money without consent. As eventual President Joe Biden‘s campaign began drastically outgaining Trump in donation money, by September, Trump’s campaign added two more pre-checked donation boxes. This included a box that said, “Make this a weekly recurring donation until 11/3.”

Many of the donors who were duped into repeating contributions included military vets, nurses and retirees. One such supporter was 78-year-old retiree Victor Amelino of California. After donating $990, he told the Times he was tricked into sending nearly $8,000 after seven unsuspected recurring payments.

Amelino was outraged, calling the Trump campaign “Bandits” after taking more money than he had to give.

“I’m retired. I can’t afford to pay all that damn money,” he said in the article.

Another supporter who got tricked was 63-year-old cancer patient Stacy Blatt of Kansas City. He sent $500 while in hospice care, while only living on $1,000 a month. His family would later discover that he had unwittingly donated $3,000. The situation led to bounced checks for rent and bills.

Stacy’s brother Russell said the donations felt like “it was a scam,” as told by the Times.

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Many more people began calling their banks complaining of fraud after realizing so much of their money had been given to the Trump campaign without their knowledge. The Federal Election Commission confirmed that the Trump campaign refunded over $122 million. In the final two months, over 530,000 refunds were issued, amounting to about $64 million.

By comparison, the Biden campaign refunded a fraction of what the Trump camp issued in 2020. That year Biden’s campaign refunded $21 million of donations, about $5.6 million being returned in the final two months of the year. It is customary for election campaigns to refund money for a variety of reasons.

After the election, Trump was able to raise tens of millions more dollars in order to cover the campaign’s refund debt. That many was raised under the guise of donating for legal fees as he was fighting the results of the election, claiming voter fraud. All of those lawsuits were dismissed due to lack of evidence.

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