Former President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign reportedly issued a total of roughly $122 million in refunds to supporters in 2020.
The refunds were given, in part, because of a fine-print disclaimer in communications that officials used to continue charging one-time donors or doubling their contribution amounts.
A New York Times investigation published Saturday found that starting in September, with only two months to go to before the 2020 presidential election, the Trump campaign allegedly set up weekly recurring donations as the default for online donors.
Donors reportedly had to manually uncheck a box to opt out, and the notice of recurring donations was allegedly included only in a fine-print statement, according to the Times.
The news outlet also found that as Election Day neared, the Trump campaign added a second prechecked box that doubled a person’s contribution, along with new lines of text in bold and capital letters that the paper said distracted from language informing donors on how to opt out of the automatic donation plan.
The Times noted that soon after the campaign implemented these practices, several Trump supporters, including retirees and military veterans, sent fraud complaints to banks and credit card companies after reporting unauthorized withdrawals from their accounts.
Among these people was Stacy Blatt, a 63-year-old patient in hospice care who donated $500 to the Trump campaign in September.
In less than a month, however, the Times said the Trump campaign had withdrawn a total of $3,000 from Blatt.
Blatt died from cancer in February.
Trump continued to raise money after Election Day through what he claimed was an effort to fight widespread voter fraud in several states. He repeatedly claimed following the 2020 election that the contest had been tainted by widespread voter fraud.
However, federal and state election officials have stated that there is no evidence to suggest that widespread voter fraud occurred.
The Trump campaign allegedly used tens of millions of dollars from his “Stop the Steal” efforts to help cover the refunds owed to donors, according to the Times.
In the final two and a half months of 2020, the Times found that the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee issued more than 530,000 refunds worth roughly $64.3 million to online donors.
According to the Times analysis, the Trump team in total refunded 10.7 percent of the money raised in 2020 on the Republican Party’s fundraising platform WinRed.
In contrast, the Biden campaign refunded just 2.2 percent of its total 2020 donations, according to federal records reviewed by the Times.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller pushed back on claims of fraud, telling the The Hill that just 0.87 percent of the WinRed transactions were included in formal credit card disputes.
“The fact we had a dispute rate of less than 1 percent of total donations despite raising more grass-roots money than any campaign in history is remarkable,” Miller said.
“Our campaign was built by the hardworking men and women of America, and cherishing their investments was paramount to anything else we did,” he added.
Via The Hill