According to a report from the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger, fans of Donald Trump who were encouraged to take part in his newly announced lawsuit aimed at taking on social media platforms over First Amendment concerns are being roped into a fundraising scheme while believing they will be part of the lawsuit.
Earlier in the week, the former president held a press conference at his Bedminster golf resort where he announced to great fanfare he was filing a class action against companies like Facebook and Twitter for banning him and other conservatives.
"Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, it's unconstitutional, and it's completely un-American," Trump told a scattering of reporters who turned up for the press conference. "It will be a pivotal battle in the history of the First Amendment."
According to Sollenberger, the head of a "dark money" PAC called America First Policy Institute (AFPI), which is assisting Trump with the lawsuit, then addressed the cameras and encouraged supporters of Trump to go online to add their name to the lawsuit.
"Brooke Rollins, a former Trump administration official who now heads up the organization, stood next to the former president on Thursday and said people could 'join the lawsuit' by going to 'take on big tech dot com.'" he wrote before adding she claimed, " We really are looking for the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Americans."
But, as the Daily Beast report notes, anyone who thought they were signing up to become co-plaintiffs soon discovered they were being swept up in a fundraising scam by the PAC.
"That site won't sign anyone on to the lawsuit though. The fine print on the landing page explicitly says entering a name does not make someone a plaintiff. Instead, it's a fundraising effort for the nonprofit, which as a 501(c)(3) organization is not required to disclose its donors," Sollenberger wrote before adding, "...visitors to that website were redirected to a fundraising page for the Constitutional Leadership Partnership, an arm of AFPI headed up by former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi."
According to the report, those who kept following the links, "... will find a form where they can enter their information and donate to the group, as well as this fine print: 'Signing up as a supporter or donor does not make you a party to, or class member in, any lawsuit in which AFPI may or may not be engaged.'"
Ari Cohn, a lawyer at think tank TechFreedom, stated that Trump's lawsuit is basically a scam aimed at getting money and email addresses for later donation requests and that the lawsuit will quickly go down in flames.
Telling the Beast that the legal maneuvering is nothing less than a "fundraising, publicity stunt," Cohn added, "They know that they're going to lose," which appears to be a consensus opinion among legal experts.
As for AFPI, Sollenberger writes, "Created in April, AFPI is the largest pro-Trump group yet. Its membership resembles something of a shadow post-White House administration, boasting a number of high-ranking former Trump officials. Alongside Rollins, the group includes former White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, and Keith Kellogg, who was national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence."
The report goes on to note that Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner also have ties to the group as "advisers."
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