Media outlets ranging from the New York Times to The Bulwark have recently reported on some of the more extreme, heavy-handed fundraising tactics that former President Donald Trump and his allies in the National Republican Congressional Committee have been resorting to. Vanity Fair's Bess Levin weighs in on those tactics in her April 7 column, stressing that they are not the work of a rational political party, but a "threatening" and "psychotic" cult.
In a Times article published in early April, journalist Shane Goldmacher reported that Trump donors had been slammed with recurring bills that they didn't agree to. By not unchecking prechecked boxes in fundraising e-mails and texts, they ended up being subjected to recurring billing when all they want to do was make single donations.
Levin explains, "The Trump campaign ripped off unwitting supporters for tens of millions of dollars. It did so through an extremely simple yet wildly deceitful scheme in which the default option for donations authorized the campaign to transfer the pledged amount from people's bank accounts not once, but every single week. Later, the campaign introduced a second prechecked box that doubled a person's contribution and was known internally as a 'money bomb.'"
The Vanity Fair columnist notes that according to Goldmacher's reporting, one of the victims was 78-year-old California resident Victor Amelino — "whose $990 donation," Levin writes, "turned into nearly $8000."
Levin goes on to discuss some recent fundraising from the NRCC, which — like Trump's campaign — wanted recurring donations. If donors wanted to uncheck a box that would have signed them up for recurring monthly donations, they were told, "If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you're a DEFECTOR…. Make this a monthly recurring donation."
NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams, in defense of its tactics, claimed that the NRCC "employs the same standards that are accepted and utilized by Democrats and Republicans across the digital fund-raising ecosystem." But Levin disagrees that Democratic requests for donations have been that "psychotic" or "threatening."
Levin comments, "(McAdams) did not say if he'd ever come across a Democratic fundraising notice that read, 'If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Joe Biden you're a dirty rotten scoundrel and a traitor to the party.' Anyway, it's presumably a matter of time until these messages escalate to 'If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you're a traitor who deserves to die' or 'If you UNCHECK this box, we'll kill your whole family and make it look like an accident!'"