Former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party have refunded nearly $13 million to donors in the first half of the year, after deploying fundraising tactics in the 2020 election that duped donors into giving more money than they intended or believed they were, The New York Times reported.
What’s more, the Times reported Saturday that more than $135 million has been refunded to donors by Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee and their shared accounts in the 2020 cycle through June 2021.
A Times investigation earlier this year found that Trump’s political operation last year automatically enrolled their online donors into recurring donations every week until Election Day.
Donors would have to manually uncheck a box on digital donation forms if they wished to opt out of the weekly donation, the Times reported. A second pre-selected box withdrew another donation. The Trump campaign made the disclaimer “increasingly opaque” by including it amongst bold and capitalized text, according to the newspaper.
The tactic led to demands for refunds from supporters and a slew of credit card fraud complaints, the Times reported.
Citing newly released records from the Federal Election Commission, the Times reported that of the $12.8 million in refunds issued this year, $8.1 million came from Trump and the RNC’s shared account, $2.2 million from Trump’s reelection committee, and $2.5 million from the RNC.
The Times previously reported that the Trump’s political operation and RNC refunded $122 million, or more than 10% of what it raised in 2020 through WinRed, which processes online donations for Republicans.
In comparison, President Joe Biden’s committees refunded more than 2% of what they raised online last year through the Democratic donation-processing site, ActBlue, the Times reported.
According to the Times, Republicans using WinRed continue to deploy the prechecked box for online donations, including Trump’s political action committee Save America, while Democrats have moved to stop using the tactic.
The Trump campaign has previously defended its online tactics. Jason Miller, a spokesman for the campaign, had told the Times that less than 1% of transactions — about 200,000 transactions — were subjected to credit card disputes last year.
Miller did not respond to the Times about the refunds issued this year.
Four Democratic state attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Minnesota are examining the fundraising practices of WinRed and ActBlue.
WinRed sued last month in Minnesota to stop the investigations, arguing that its activities are governed by federal law, not any state consumer protection laws. It slammed the inquiries as “unlawful, partisan and hypocritical.”
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