Four state attorneys general are examining the fundraising practices of the main online platforms used by the Republican and Democratic parties.
The inquiries by the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Minnesota probe the use of pre-checked donation boxes to lock in contributions to candidates and committees on a monthly or weekly schedule, according to court filings. All of the attorneys general are Democrats.
The inquiries come after a New York Times investigation into the practices of former President Donald Trump’s political operation that included using pre-checked boxes to automatically enroll contributors into recurring donation programs.
WinRed, which processes online donations for Republicans, disclosed the state investigations in a civil complaint filed this week. WinRed has sued in Minnesota to stop the probes, arguing that its activities are governed by federal law, not any state consumer protection laws the attorneys general are seeking to enforce.
WinRed’s court filings include an April 29 letter written by the New York Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the attorneys general of all four states, outlining the information the AGs seek. They include any information about refunds made to residents of New York, Maryland, Connecticut and Minnesota, along with any internal analyses on the effectiveness of using pre-checked boxes.
In a statement posted on its website, WinRed described the inquiry as “unlawful, partisan and hypocritical.”
“Four Democrat Attorneys General are exploiting their positions of power for partisan gain and targeting WinRed for fundraising tactics that Democrats themselves pioneered and still use to this day,” WinRed officials said in a statement.
The WinRed complaint was first reported by The Washington Examiner.
The attorneys general also have made similar inquiries about the fundraising tactics of ActBlue, which processes donations for Democrats, according to a person familiar with the investigation who requested anonymity to discuss the probe.
In a statement, ActBlue acknowledged that it had “received an inquiry from these attorneys general and worked with them to provide information that responded to their inquiry.”
Officials representing the New York and Minnesota attorneys general contacted by CNN on Friday morning denied any partisanship in their investigation.
“Protecting consumers is a job that falls primarily on the states and knows no political party,” John Stiles, deputy chief of staff to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, said in an email.
“Every Minnesotan is protected under the law from fraud and deception,” he added. “It’s the Attorney General’s job to protect Minnesotans and enforce those laws, no matter who may break them.”
Delaney Kempner, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Letitia James, said: “The Attorney General’s Office follows the facts of the law wherever they may lead. Politics stop at the door, period.”
The New York Times investigation earlier this year found that Trump’s use of recurring donations prompted a slew of credit card fraud complaints. His political operation ended up refunding $122 million, or more than 10% of what it raised through WinRed in 2020, the Times found.
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