Donald Trump has long demanded fealty from those who wish to serve in the high ranks of his administration and golf courses, but House Republicans made that requirement explicit in a fundraising email to supporters this week:
The language itself is eye-catching, but consistent with the trajectory of a party that sees no good reason to ditch Trump in order to return to power. But while Republican supporters probably don’t expect the National Republican Congressional Committee to actually tell Trump that they stopped donating — or the notoriously solipsistic figure to actually care — the method of requiring people to opt out of a pre-checked box if they don’t want to pay is considered to be deceptive by campaign-finance experts. It’s particularly tricky if the email tells a user that if they uncheck that box, they actually don’t support Trump.
The timing of the emails suggests Republicans are fine with such a fundraising tactic, however. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that the Trump campaign bilked donors out of tens of millions of dollars by setting donors up to automatically transfer money to the former president money every week unless they chose to opt out of the program. This tactic to solicit recurring donations helped lead to a spike in returned payments once people realized what was going on; the Trump campaign ultimately gave back $101 million more than the Biden campaign did. However, some donors only noticed that the billionaire had signed them up for what’s known as a “money bomb” after their rent payments bounced.
Since Trump became the dominant force in the GOP in the 2016 primary, the party has largely followed in his footsteps toward whatever depths of bigotry or resentment his mind brought forth. When it comes to attempts to misdirect supporters into giving them more money, it seems to be the same play. Meanwhile, Trump has relaunched his small-scale fundraising operation for the first time since leaving office, selling bumperstickers, doormats, and yard signs stamped with the phrase “Don’t Blame Me I Voted for Trump.”