Ex-president Donald Trump and the GOP have issued some $135 million in refunds of donations which were made through a questionable recurring donation scheme.
According to a report from the New York Times on Saturday, the ultra-aggressive fundraising tactics used by the party and campaign, which prompted a wave of complaints, have ultimately resulted in the massive refund amount.
“If you have to return that much money you are doing something either very wrong or very unethical,” said director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication at George Washington University Peter Loge, speaking to Goldmacher for the report.
Trailing in the polls and facing a cash crunch last September, Mr. Trump’s political operation began opting online donors into automatic recurring contributions by prechecking a box on its digital donation forms to take a withdrawal every week. Donors would have to notice the box and uncheck it to opt out of the donation. A second prechecked box took out another donation, known as a “money bomb.”
The Trump team then obscured that fact by burying the fine print beneath multiple lines of bold and capitalized text, a New York Times investigation earlier this year found.
The maneuver spiked revenues in the short term — allowing Mr. Trump to spend money before the election — and then caused a cascade of fraud complaints to credit cards and demands for refunds from supporters. The refunded donations amounted to an unwitting interest-free loan from Mr. Trump’s supporters in the weeks when he most needed it.