Former President Donald Trump’s campaign refunded $122 million in donations last year after its fundraising platform signed unwitting donors up for recurring contributions, The New York Times reports.
The Trump campaign, which like other Republicans use the WinRed online fundraising platform, checked off a box for recurring weekly donations as the default option on its fundraising pitches last September, meaning donors “had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out,” according to the report.
But the disclaimer grew “increasingly opaque,” adding a second prechecked box that also doubled a person’s contribution and adding additional bolded text that made it more difficult to find the opt-out.
In the final 2.5 months of 2020 alone, Trump and the Republican National Committee were forced to issue more than 530,000 refunds worth $64 million, in part because of the tactic.
By comparison, President Joe Biden’s campaign made 37,000 online refunds worth $5.6 million.
In all, Trump’s campaign had to refund $122 million while Biden’s refunded $21 million for a variety of reasons, including that some people maxed out their contribution limits.
Trump supporters fume:
Stacy Blatt, who was in hospice care in September when she donated $500 to Trump’s campaign, was unwittingly charged $500 per week for the next several weeks before her bank account was completely tapped out and frozen by her bank. The Trump campaign had withdrawn $3,000 in less than 30 days.
“It felt like it was a scam,” her son told the Times.
Victor Amelino, a 78-year-old who donated $990 to the campaign, was charged seven more times, handing over $8000.
“Bandits!” he told the outlet. “I’m retired. I can’t afford to pay all that damn money.”
WinRed made money from refunds:
The Trump campaign refunded 10.7% of the money it raised on WinRed, compared to 2.2% of the money Biden raised on similar platform ActBlue.
Some bank representatives told the Times that fraud claims related to WinRed made up as much as 1% to 3% of their entire workload.
WinRed told the Times that it make it “exceptionally easy” to get your money back.
“WinRed wants donors to be happy, and puts a premium on customer support,” company president Gerrit Lansing said. “Donors are the lifeblood of G.O.P. campaigns.”
Unlike ActBlue, WinRed is a for-profit company that takes a fee from every donation. It even earned money from the refunds because it charges each transaction. The company likely made $5 million off the Trump refunds alone before expenses.