Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign used previously checked boxes and an obscure design in fundraising emails to extract millions of dollars from unwitting supporters, detonating a “money bomb” that allowed the Republican to compete against Joe Biden in the last months of the war.
The practice, followed by the campaign and WinRed, a for-profit company, was detailed in a lengthy New York Times report on Saturday. It’s legal, but Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, told the newspaper it was “unfair, unethical and inappropriate.”
Another expert quoted by the Times said that “dark pattern” digital marketing “should be in the textbooks of what not to do” in politics.
The “money bomb” did not bring victory, as Trump lost the electoral college by 306 votes to 232. He also lost the popular vote by more than 7 million ballots.
But, the Times said, “recurring donations boosted Trump’s treasury in September and October, just as his finances were deteriorating. He was then able to use the tens of millions of dollars he raised after the election, under the guise of fighting his unfounded fraud claims, to help cover the refunds he owed. “
Trump still claims that his defeat was caused by massive electoral fraud. It was not, as a succession of court cases concluded.
After escaping conviction in his second impeachment trial for inciting the Capitol riots on January 6, the former president is free to run again for office. It continues to seek donations, which generates friction with the party it dominates.
As the Times reported, donor refunds are not unusual and can be made when people give more than the legal limit. The newspaper said that in late 2020, after Trump’s defeat, the Biden campaign and Democratic bodies made 37,000 refunds online worth $ 5.6 million.
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee made more than 530,000 refunds, returning $ 64.3 million.
“In effect,” wrote the Times, “the money that Trump eventually had to repay was equivalent to an interest-free loan from unwilling supporters at the most important juncture of the 2020 race.”
Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, told the Times: “Our campaign was built by hardworking men and women in America and appreciating their investments was paramount to anything else we did.”
The Times reported that the practice was used for the January elections in the Georgia Senate and that it continues to be used by the Republican Party.
He also detailed harrowing experiences affecting Trump donors affected by surprise deductions and the ensuing problems with banks and credit card companies.
Victor Amelino, a 78-year-old man from California, donated $ 990 in September. It was repeated seven times for a total of nearly $ 8,000, the Times said.
Amelino, who called the Trump campaign and the RNC “bandits,” told the newspaper: “I’m retired. I can’t afford to pay all that damn money.”