The aggressive fund-raising tactics that former President Donald J. Trump deployed late in last year’s presidential campaign have continued to spur an avalanche of refunds into 2021, with Mr. Trump, the Republican Party and their shared accounts returning $12.8 million to donors in the first six months of the year, newly released federal records show.
The refunds were some of the biggest outlays that Mr. Trump made in 2021 as he has built up his $102 million political war chest — and amounted to roughly 20 percent of the $56 million he and his committees raised online so far this year.
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.
From later in the article, “The Federal Election Commission has since unanimously recommended that Congress prohibit campaigns from prechecking boxes for recurring donations, and legislation to do so has been introduced in both the House and Senate. The state attorneys general in New York, Connecticut, Minnesota and Maryland have also opened investigations into WinRed and ActBlue’s practices.”