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Not My Party: We’re Doomed! Send Us Money.

Small-dollar fundraising scams exposed.
April 15, 2021

We’re doomed! The end is nigh! Unless you click here to donate $5 to Not My Party before the midnight deadline.

How sick are you of emails, texts, and YouTube ads like this: “We will not win without your support. Donate now!”

Populists on both sides of the aisle are trying to convince you that a barrage of small dollar donations are the best way to stick it to the establishment.

“Running a campaign on small dollar donations, basically forces you to put your inherent faith in people,” – AOC

But this attempt to ‘give people a voice’ might just be a cover to line the pocket of political consultants, pay for ads that you hate, and coerce people to give money they don’t have.

The Democrats were the trailblazers on the obnoxious online fundraising. They love bombarding supporters with pushy messages of doom: Kiss any hope, goodbye! We’re desperate! Love Me! Give us money now!

But during the Trump years, the corporate donations that used to fund the Republicans started to dry up. So the GOP copied the Dem’s tactics, but made it skeevier. You can always count on the Trump brand for a good scam.

The New York Times exposed their grossest tactic last week. When new Trump donors signed up, the campaign would leave a fine print disclaimer pre-checked which committed people to making that donation every month. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters contributed money they didn’t mean to. Stacey Blatt, a 63-year-old with cancer, said his utility and rent payments bounced—and he wasn’t alone. Banks got so many complaints about fraudulent charges from the Trump campaign that they had to refund $122 million back to supporters after the election. 122 million! Think about this: A billionaire president, who was claiming to be a man of the people, was tricking his own working-class supporters into giving him millions of dollars. That’s next-level evil.

Republicans in Congress saw that, and their response was, “Hold my hemlock”. What they were doing was even more sus than Trump. Here’s how it worked: They sent a text message asking people if they wanted to sign up for Trump’s new social network. (Which, by the way, doesn’t exist.) When you put in money to sign up, there were two pre-checked boxes. The first makes your contribution monthly. And it says, if you uncheck it, they’ll tell Trump that you’re a defector. The next doubles your contribution and says if you uncheck it that you’ve abandoned Trump. Getting out of this window is harder than canceling an Equinox membership.

These schemes prey on older voters, people who aren’t tech savvy, and gullible Trump supporters.

All this ugliness has evolved in part from the fetishization of low-dollar fundraising that has become gospel on both sides. Here are three new problems created by this holier-than-thou facade.

It’s extreme. It’s empowering the most extreme politicians in both parties, but especially on the right. After the insurrection, insane Congresswoman Marjorie QAnon Greene, and Pro-coup Senator Josh Hawley, raised $3 million from small dollar donors, setting a record.

It’s wasteful. On the left, it’s resulting in viral candidates, with no hope of winning, taking money that could be better used elsewhere. Last cycle, Amy McGrath and Jamie Harrison raised $200 million, half the GDP of Micronesia. And they both got crushed! They used cherry-picked polling to lure in liberals who were salivating at the possibility of beating Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, even though it was never gonna happen.

It’s dishonest. People are being scared into believing that chipping in money is required to save America, when in reality, a lot of their cash is being used to buy beach houses for political consultants. Meanwhile, some of these small donors need that money to keep a roof over their head.

So while it’s great for regular folks to be more involved in the political process, be smart about it. Don’t let politicians and grassroots organizations use extreme, wasteful ,and dishonest tactics to take advantage of those good intentions.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump, communications director for Jeb Bush 2016, and spokesman for the Republican National Committee.