In the last few weeks before the 2020 presidential election Donald Trumps Campaign badly needed a cash inflow to combat the Biden campaign’s ad purchases. The solution, according to a bomb on Saturday report of Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times, consisted in including one language in donor agreements that would provide increasingly opaque recurring charges to donor accounts.
Described as a “deliberate program to increase revenue,” donors had to read the fine print of the donation disclaimer to understand exactly how much money they would be donating to Trump’s campaign. The disclaimer contained several pre-examined provisions that allowed the Trump campaign to withdraw additional funds from donors’ accounts over time. This meant that prospective donors would have to actively scroll through the disclaimer and actively clear certain boxes in order to make a simple one-time donation.
The campaign also benefited in part from yellow boxes with pro-Trump messages, which are internally referred to as “money bombs”, the report says.
For example, a pre-ticked box read large and bold: “This is the LAST month leading up to election day and we need EVERY patriot stepping up if we want to win FOUR YEARS to President Trump. It’s revitalizing our economy, restoring LAW & ORDER, and bringing us back to American greatness, but it’s not done yet. This is your chance – stand on the side of President Trump and MAXIMIZE your impact NOW! “
Below this bold font was a line that contained a smaller, non-bold sentence: “Make this a weekly donation until November 3rd.”
Another pre-checked box also contained several sentences in bold urging potential donors to “join Operation MAGA and help me secure the November victory”. A smaller rate below that would allow the campaign to automatically withdraw an additional $ 100 from a donor’s account on October 9, unless the box was unchecked.
Screenshots are embedded in the tweets below – as is a chart of the economic impact.
– Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) April 3, 2021
The New York Times reported that many Trump donors realized too late what was going on.
A 63 year old Kansas City cancer patient named Stacy sheet told that Times that he donated $ 500 to the campaign in September, even though he was living on less than $ 1,000 a month and was completely blind from what followed.
“That single post – federal records show it was his first ever – quickly multiplied,” the report reads. “Another $ 500 was withdrawn the next day, then $ 500 the next week and every week until mid-October, without his knowledge – until Mr. Blatt’s bank account was used up and frozen.”
He was forced to seek help from his brother after his utility and rental checks broke and he learned that his account had been drained of $ 3,000 in less than 30 days.
“It felt like it was a scam,” Russell told dem Times, adding that the family reported the Trump campaign withdrawals to the bank because they believed Stacy had been the victim of a fraud.
Another 78-year-old from California made a one-time donation of $ 990 that ended up costing her more than $ 8,000.
The plan resulted in the Trump campaign repaying nearly 11 percent of the funds raised online in 2020, or more than $ 122 million, a number that can increase as more claims are received.
The campaign was also reportedly planned with a high likelihood that it would have to repay at least some of the recurring donations – so it used the funds like a loan.
“The recurring donations made Trump’s treasury swell in September and October just as his finances were deteriorating. Then he could use tens of millions of dollars raised after the election to fight his unfounded fraud allegations to help cover the refunds he owed Times Report specified.
“The money Mr. Trump eventually had to repay was an interest-free loan from ignorant supporters at the most important time of the 2020 race.”
Trump spokesman Jason Miller denied any wrongdoing and said that Times that the campaign “was built by the hard working men and women of America and that appreciating their investments in everything else we did was paramount”.
[image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images]
Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected]