A Journal of the Plague Year 2021–chapter 205

Sir, there’s a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Monday, April 5

The Trump campaign fund-raising shenanigans underscore just who the MAGA crowd are: swindlers of the gullible, easy-pickings Americans who are also preyed upon by the reverse-mortgage pushers, automated-phone-call “health care specialists,” and auto-warranty fixers.

Today’s headlines: In the final days before the election, the Trump fund-raising machine ensnared thousands of small-money donors into making automatic, recurring donations, using mailers with pre-checked boxes reading “let’s make this a monthly recurring donation.” A second pre-checked box—the “money bomb”—prompted them to make recurring donations on a weekly basis. Some contributors were unwittingly making as many as half a dozen donations in 30 days.

Many donors didn’t realize they’d been hoodwinked until they received their bank statements or credit card bills.

The Sergeant Bilko tactic has led to an avalanche of fraud complaints—and $122.7 million in compelled refunds. Overall, the Trump fundraising machine was made to refund 10.7 percent of the money it raised via the WinRed digital operation in 2020.

Even money that had to be refunded worked in the campaign’s favor, amounting to an interest-free loan from unwitting supporters at the most important juncture of the 2020 race.

Moreover, the shady fund-raising tactics continued well after the election as part of Trump’s “stop the steal” racket.

Not all of the dough went to Trump. WinRed, it turns out, is a for-profit operation that keeps 30 cents of every donation, plus 3.8 percent of the amount given. It even made money off of donations that were refunded, keeping the 30-cent donation fees.

Fund-raising in general is a snake pit. We receive call after telephone call from police outfits hoping that you’ll be intimidated into giving to their law-and-order cause. They’ll even come right out and ask you to donate to their union!

Nor are the Trump tactics unique: One digital-marketing expert told The New York Times that the techniques were a classic of the “deceptive design” genre. If they are “classic,” that means that other fund-raisers, including those for “charities” or Democrats, have also used the pre-checked box gambit.

There’s a sucker born every minute. 

P.T. Barnum didn’t actually say that—maybe it was Harold Hill of The Music Man.  Anyhow, Trump’s right, at least in part: what a bunch of losers. Millions want to be conned. Not only do they give away their votes to Mr. Flim-Flam, they’ll give him their pension money, too.

Dinner: avgolemono soup and an avocado and orange salad.

Entertainment: It seems only appropriate that we should watch the Netflix drama I Care A Lot, in which a swindler of the elderly gets her comeuppance, at least for a while.