The refunds keep coming. Former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party returned $12.8 million in donations in the first six months of the year, reports the New York Times. The figure illustrate how the aggressive fundraising tactics used for the presidential election continued to lead donors to demand money back. Overall, more than $135 million has been refunded to donors by Trump, the Republican National Committee, and their shared accounts in the 2020 cycle through June 2021, including around $60 million after Election Day.
The New York Times had revealed earlier this year that Trump and the RNC were being forced to return lots of cash after they used confusing pre-checked boxed that automatically enrolled donors into recurring donations. The Times investigation found that Trump’s fundraising operation was so confusing that it wasn’t just non-tech savvy people who got tricked but also veteran political operatives. At the time, the Times said that the $122 million in online donations that were returned in 2020 was sharply higher than the $21 million that President Joe Biden’s campaign refunded to donors.
Experts say the sheer amount of money Trump and the RNC had to return makes it evident there was something off about the fundraising operation. “It’s pretty clear that the Trump campaign was engaging in deceptive tactics,” said Peter Loge, the director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication at George Washington University. “If you have to return that much money you are doing something either very wrong or very unethical.” Of the $12.8 million refunded this year, $8.1 million came from an account shared by Trump and the RNC, $2.2 million from Trump’s reelection committee, and $2.5 million from the RNC. The Federal Election Commission has recommended that Congress prohibit political campaigns from pre-checking boxes to sign up for recurring donations.