Trump Donors Didn't Know the Charges Were Recurring

Reelection campaign has to return $122M
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2021 10:25 AM CDT
Trump Had to Refund Donors $122M
Supporters cheer as Vice President Mike Pence speaks before President Donald Trump at a campaign rally Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Mich.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Former President Trump's reelection campaign had to return $122.7 million to donors after they realized they were being charged repeatedly. People who donated, say, $500 were being charged that amount not just once, but every month—or even every week—until the election. To avoid being overcharged, donors had to get through the fine print and uncheck a box, the New York Times reports. A second box, which arrived already checked, doubled contributions. In time, lines of bold type were added that drowned out the fine print about opting out, and the wording about unchecking the box was no longer in bold. The practice fits the definition of "deceptive design," a user-experience designer said. "It should be in textbooks of what you shouldn't do," he said. The head of the National Association of Consumer Advocates said, "It's unfair, it’s unethical and it's inappropriate."

Banks and credit card companies were swamped with fraud reports about the charges from WinRed, the site that raised the money for Trump's campaign; Trump had told supporters in March to send money directly to him, not the Republican Party. WinRed keeps 30 cents of every donation, plus 3.8% of the total amount, while the Democrats' version, ActBlue, is a nonprofit. WinRed kept its fees even when the donation was refunded, for a total take before costs of about $5 million on Trump's fundraising. A 78-year-old in California gave $990 through WinRed in September, then was charged that amount seven more times. "Bandits!" he said, adding, "I can’t afford to pay all that damn money." A Trump spokesman, Jason Miller, said formal credit card disputes showed few complaints of fraud, per the Hill. "The fact we had a dispute rate of less than 1% of total donations despite raising more grass-roots money than any campaign in history is remarkable," Miller said. (More Donald Trump stories.)

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