The Real Reason Donald Trump Returned Millions To Donors This Year

If you've donated any money to former President Donald Trump's political action party or to the Republican National Committee (RNC) in the last few months, it may be a good time to take a good look at that donation, because federal records show both Trump and the RNC were forced to return as much as $12.8 million for the first half of this year alone, thanks to ambiguities in the online contribution form. A number of Trump supporters had thought they were sending a one-time payment, but a smaller check box that needed to be unticked ended up being overlooked, and put unwitting donors in the position of making contributions on a weekly basis (via HuffPost).

The $12.8 refund to donors for the first six months of this year is a fraction of the total amount of money Trump and the RNC have had to return, because from the beginning of the 2020 campaign through to June 2021, both parties have had to send back a jaw-dropping $135 million. George Washington University's Project on Ethics in Political Communication Director Peter Loge told HuffPost that "It's pretty clear that the Trump campaign was engaging in deceptive tactics. If you have to return that much money you are doing something either very wrong or very unethical."

The RNC has not changed its fundraising tactics

That fundraising tactic doesn't appear to have changed, either. In a series of tweets, lawyer and Lincoln Project co-founder George Conway shared screenshots of the RNC's current fundraising effort, involving calls to stop Democrats from mandating the coronavirus vaccine (via Twitter). He points out that "The email linked to a WinRed page that, so very conveniently, prechecked the recurring donation boxes so that the NRSC can regularly take money from people without having to ask."

While Trump has been urging supporters to send him their contributions to help him fight what he claims is the election fraud that cost him the November 2020 elections, very little has been actually been spent on litigation. For instance, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who flew across the country to challenge the results of the November elections never got paid for his services, and his allies now want Trump to tap into that fund to help Giuliani cover his legal fees (via The New York Times). 

Adav Noti, who was once associate general counsel at the Federal Election Center, tells The Guardian: "The president deceived his donors. He asked them to give money so he could contest the election results, but then he spent their contributions to pay off unrelated debts."

He adds: "That's dangerously close to fraud. If a regular charity — or an individual who didn't happen to be president of the United States — had raised tens of millions of dollars through that sort of deception, they would face a serious risk of prosecution."