“A Scam”: New Report Details How Trump Campaign Bilked Millions From Supporters

The New York Times reveals deceptive tactics.

Mother Jones illustration; Getty, Michael Brochstein/Getty

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

When Donald Trump’s campaign budget was largely tapped this fall, his staff resorted to deceptive online fundraising practices that tricked donors into signing up to make extra or recurring credit card payments.

According to a New York Times report, the strategies, which involved automatically checking boxes above language consenting to the donations buried below lines and lines of near gibberish, sparked a huge number of complaints, which helped push the campaign to refund an eye popping $64.3 million dollars. According to insiders interviewed by the Times in credit card fraud departments, complaints about unwanted and unexpected charges from Trump donors accounted for as much as 3% of all traffic for periods during the campaign—a stunning number when compared to the massive amount of non-political credit card transactions the companies process.  “It felt,” one victim tells the Times, “like it was a scam.”

From the New York Times.

The Trump campaign paid out many of those refunds after the November election, as new piles of cash were coming in, purportedly earmarked to fund legal battles related to his false claim that his reelection was stolen. As the Times reports, “the money that Mr. Trump eventually had to refund amounted to an interest-free loan from unwitting supporters at the most important juncture of the 2020 race.”

Since leaving office, Trump has kept his political money machine operational. Just last month he sent cease and desist letters to the Republican National Committee and other party arms demanding they stop using his name and likeness in fundraising, and told donors to instead give to a PAC he controls.

WE CAME UP SHORT.

We just wrapped up a shorter-than-normal, urgent-as-ever fundraising drive and we came up about $45,000 short of our $300,000 goal.

That means we're going to have upwards of $350,000, maybe more, to raise in online donations between now and June 30, when our fiscal year ends and we have to get to break-even. And even though there's zero cushion to miss the mark, we won't be all that in your face about our fundraising again until June.

So we urgently need this specific ask, what you're reading right now, to start bringing in more donations than it ever has. The reality, for these next few months and next few years, is that we have to start finding ways to grow our online supporter base in a big way—and we're optimistic we can keep making real headway by being real with you about this.

Because the bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. The only investors who won’t let independent, investigative journalism down are the people who actually care about its future—you.

And we hope you might consider pitching in before moving on to whatever it is you're about to do next. We really need to see if we'll be able to raise more with this real estate on a daily basis than we have been, so we're hoping to see a promising start.

payment methods

WE CAME UP SHORT.

We just wrapped up a shorter-than-normal, urgent-as-ever fundraising drive and we came up about $45,000 short of our $300,000 goal.

That means we're going to have upwards of $350,000, maybe more, to raise in online donations between now and June 30, when our fiscal year ends and we have to get to break-even. And even though there's zero cushion to miss the mark, we won't be all that in your face about our fundraising again until June.

So we urgently need this specific ask, what you're reading right now, to start bringing in more donations than it ever has. The reality, for these next few months and next few years, is that we have to start finding ways to grow our online supporter base in a big way—and we're optimistic we can keep making real headway by being real with you about this.

Because the bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. The only investors who won’t let independent, investigative journalism down are the people who actually care about its future—you.

And we hope you might consider pitching in before moving on to whatever it is you're about to do next. We really need to see if we'll be able to raise more with this real estate on a daily basis than we have been, so we're hoping to see a promising start.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate