Trump campaign refunds millions to donors misled by manipulative fundraising tactics

Nearly $13 million has been returned in 2021 to Trump donors who were tricked into paying recurring donations

In the first six months of 2021, former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party refunded approximately $12.8 million back to campaign donors who fell prey to aggressive and misleading fundraising tactics, per a New York Times report.

This payment is in addition to roughly $122 million the Trump campaign refunded to donors in 2020 for the same reasons.

The campaign deployed the deceptive tactics in March 2020, quietly updating its online donation portal with a pre-checked option box signing supporters up for recurring donations rather than one-time payments. Later in June, another pre-checked option box appeared asking for more money in celebration of Trump’s birthday. 

Many donors did not realize they had to manually un-check each box in order to avoid payment, and unwittingly donated thousands in support of Trump’s re-election. Among those deceived was a 63-year-old cancer patient who was tricked into paying over $3,000 after initially meaning to donate just $500, per the Times.

Outraged donors began filing fraud claims to their banks, and in May, Senate Democrats introduced a bill banning pre-checked boxes from recurring campaign solicitations following a unanimous recommendation from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) earlier that month.

“Following the FEC’s unanimous vote, it’s clear we should take action to ban this practice and ensure contributors are fully informed. This legislation will do just that,” said U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar in a statement.

Peter Loge, a George Washington University Professor who also serves as Director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication told the Times that it’s “pretty clear that the Trump campaign was engaging in deceptive tactics,” adding that “If you have to return that much money you are doing something either very wrong or very unethical.”

While election campaigns regularly refund money to donors for a variety of reasons, the Times reported that Trump’s campaign returned a considerably larger sum of money than President Joe Biden’s in the 2020 election. 

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Per reports, the Trump campaign returned over 10% of the $1.2 billion it raised in donations, while President Biden‘s campaign returned roughly 2% by comparison.

After Biden won the election in November, Trump’s campaign continued asking supporters for donations and were able to raise tens of millions more dollars to help pay for the campaign’s refund debt. 

This time, the requests told potential donors to support Trump’s multiple lawsuits against the results of the election. Each lawsuit filed was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s “Dear Culture” podcast? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download today!