The New York Times is reporting that the Donald Trump presidential campaign bilked thousands of campaign donors with an online donation appeal that resulted in multiple withdrawals from unwitting donor’s accounts. If the individual making a donation failed to uncheck a pre-ticked box, their accounts or credit cards would be tapped several times, or larger amounts than the donor had intended to five would be withdrawn.
As the Trump campaign headed into the fall, it found itself being badly outspent by the Biden campaign. The campaign used the services of WinRed– a for-profit company that processed its online donations. With donations slowing, the campaign had begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election.
Stacy Blatt, battling cancer and in a hospice heard about the Trump campaign’s need for cash listening to Rush Limbaugh, he went on line and made a donation of $500—a lot of money for a person living in less than $1000 per month. What Mr. Blatt thought was a single donation multiplied. Another $500 was withdrawn the next day, then $500 the next week and every week through mid-October, without his knowledge — until Mr. Blatt’s bank account had been depleted and frozen. His utility and rent payments bounced. In all, $3,000 had been withdrawn from the Blatt account. Mr. Blatt died in February.
The negative option practice in political fundraising was not confined to Trump. The Biden Campaign used a similar negative option on their fundraising managed by a company called WinBlue. The difference was that the Biden negative option message did not change, whereas the Trump negative option became more opaque as the campaign neared the end, with the addition of messages that obscured the fundraising intent. Both campaigns would refund the money if the donor complained, but it ended up that the Trump campaign was forced to refund ten times the amount of the Biden Campaign.