An unusually ugly record

Steve Benen at MSNBC:

Donald Trump has an unusually ugly record when it comes to separating those he perceives as fools from their money. As we’ve discussed before, the Republican ran a fraudulent charitable foundation and created a fraudulent “university” that was designed to do little more than rip off its “students.”

Not to mention all those overvalued condos he sold.

But his new trick is really breathtaking.

The New York Times reported over the weekend on Trump’s 2020 political operation and the brazenly underhanded tactics it employed to swindle its unsuspecting donors. The article began by featuring a financially unstable cancer patient in Kansas City, who chipped in $500 last September after hearing Rush Limbaugh talk about the Republican ticket’s financial needs.

What the hospice-bound patient — making his first-ever campaign contribution — didn’t know was that Team Trump accepted the $500 donation, withdrew another $500 the next day, and then took another $500 once per week through mid-October. It wasn’t long before the cancer patient’s bank account had been emptied by the then-president’s political operation, causing the man’s utility and rent payments to bounce.

How did the operation manage that? By including a tiny box with a tick already in it saying it could do that very thing.

Facing a cash crunch and getting badly outspent by the Democrats, the campaign had begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election. Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out. As the election neared, the Trump team made that disclaimer increasingly opaque, an investigation by The New York Times showed.

Default acceptances should be illegal.

Initially, there was an easily overlooked pre-checked box on the donation page — which, naturally, many supporters didn’t see — that turned a single donation into a monthly contribution. As Election Day drew closer, the pre-checked box created weekly contributions.

And then they added a whole bunch of confusing text that made it even harder to see what was happening.

Not surprisingly, banks and credit card companies were soon inundated “with fraud complaints from the president’s own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.”

Because the then-president was so energetically stealing $$$ from his own fans.

And it’s not over.

The same New York Times report added:

Now WinRed is exporting the tools it pioneered during the Trump re-election across the Republican Party, presaging a new normal for G.O.P. campaigns. Today, the websites of various Republican Party committees and top congressional Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, include prechecked yellow boxes for multiple or recurring donations.

I wonder if they’ve given any thought to the long-term effects of stealing wads of cash from their own supporters.

Updating to add, at Skeletor’s suggestion:

Trump used dark patterns to trick supporters into donating millions more  than intended - The Verge

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