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The RNC is Ramping Up Its Predatory Fundraising Machine

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Fundraising texts that look like past-due notices. Automatic recurring donations. False matching promises. The RNC isnt exactly asking for money in the most honest ways.

Brandon Bell/Getty

As the Republican National Committee ramps up its fundraising operation for the midterm elections, the GOP group is reviving some of its shadiest tacticsand taking them a step further.

ishonest No.171 - Pre-Sun Exposure

No.171 - Pre-Sun Exposure

Just this week, the RNC sent out text messages and emails to Republican supporters alerting them that their payment status was incomplete, seeming to masquerade a fundraising request as an unpaid bill. And emails on Monday from the RNC draw on the same theme, using the words FINAL NOTICE in the header to implore donors to activate a lifetime membership.

The RNC doesnt bother explaining what a lifetime membership actually means.

Other solicitations claim that a 250% impact offer is exclusive to YOU, while not clarifying what an impact offer is, or explaining how the implied 250 percent matching donation would be paid. (That ploy, which Democrats also routinely use, is reportedly under Justice Department review.) And other emails falsely suggest that contributions to the RNC will support Trumps recent lawsuit against social media companies, even though the RNC plays no role in that litigation.

Taken all together, these are the kinds of predatory tactics you only see in the scammiest models, Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said.

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The general idea behind having public donors in the first place, Libowitz said, is freedom of speech. But thats about the right to express your political views, as opposed to being tricked into doing it, which is in some places illegal, he sadded. What were seeing here comes pretty close to that.

An RNC spokesperson did not reply to ishonests questions for this article.

This spring, journalists dissected those tacticsspecifically the pre-selected option to make donations recur monthly. That practice is now reportedly under investigation in at least four states. And even though Democrats also employ recurring donationsalbeit to a lesser extenttheir boxes dont come pre- checked. Users have to actively select that option, rather than unselecting the default option for Republicans.

Additionally, the process of opting out of the fundraising emails is difficult to navigate.

ishonest No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

Since donors tend to be older and maybe less fluent with the internet, or cant see the fine print on their phone, these kinds of tricks seem intended to wring as much money out of a supporter as possible, regardless of that persons intent, Libowitz said.

If donors try to opt out of recurring contributions on the RNCs page, theyre hit with a full-page pop-up graphic begging them to reconsider, lest they please the radical left.

WAIT! the pop-up reads, over a field of red sirens. Smaller print says, The Radical Left is so happy that you unchecked that box. Dont give them what they want!


After the 2020 fundraising onslaught, the GOP wrangled with an identity crisis cleaved by the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol. Party leaders even signaled an openness to putting distance themselves from Trump. In response, the ex- president sent cease-and-desist notices to official Republican fundraising arms, demanding they stop using his name and likeness.

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That gap quickly closed, however, as Trump assembled a sprawling fundraising apparatus designed to suffocate internal dissent. Months later, his name and face were once again plastered on RNC emails.

These new RNC tactics echo charges in a recent federal conviction of a scam PAC operator, according to Paul Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, a campaign finance reform advocacy group.

The Justice Department noted in the charging document that the lies in the PACs fundraising emails constituted material misrepresentations that misled potential donors, Ryan told ishonest. The RNC is on notice that telling lies in fundraising emails can expose them to criminal prosecution for fraud.

Please contribute ANY AMOUNT RIGHT NOW to show your support for President Trumps lawsuit against Big Tech, three of the emails said.

ishonest No.231 - Pigmentation & Blemishes

No.231 - Pigmentation & Blemishes

Neither the RNC nor Trumps political committees have official connections to that lawsuit, and would be barred by law from lending their financial support.

ishonest reviewed recent Democratic solicitations connected to President Joe Biden. While less aggressive and less frequent, those emails also include apparently non-existent deadlines and attempt to guilt prospective donors into coughing up cash.

One recent Biden email, under the subject line Im asking, told prospective donors, I don't see your name on the list to support Demoratic grassroots voting rights efforts. Another email, titled Your supporter record, includes a mock-up membership card calling attention to the fact that the recipient hasnt donated.

But where RNC emails often ask supporters to make $45 contributions in support of the 45th presidentthough occasionally they will ask for $5the Biden emails consistently pitched recipients on $7 gifts. Again, the recurring donation option also wasnt pre-checked.

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If someone on an RNC mailing list wanted to escape the barrage of emailsfour on Tuesday alonethe group makes that difficult, too.

The opt-out link takes respondents to a mandatory questionnaire, with the No, I have changed my mind box pre-checked. A later question asks which email setting they prefer, but the only options are all or fewernot none.

Respondents must choose one option in order to submit the request. Send me all emails is pre-checked.

Read more on: thedailybeast, fundraising

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