“The practical recourse is to monitor these groups for fraud.”
December 23, 2019 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Trump campaign plagued by groups raising tens of millions in his name Outside entities are raising huge money in Trump's name, despite disavowals from the campaign, and spending little of it on 2020. As Trump raises money for his reelection campaign, he’s competing for cash with a growing mass of pro-Trump PACs, dark money groups, and off-brand Facebook advertisers neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Trump’s campaign. And they have pulled in over $46 million so far. (Maggie Severns for Politico)

By comparison, the RNC and Trump have raised $300 million in the first three quarters of this year.

Previously: Inside top Trump advisor's fundraising mirage (Axios, May 2019) (in which former deputy campaign chair David Bossie's Presidential Coalition spends only 3% of its revenue on political activity); "When the free market doesn't work, you try force" (July 2019, on Republican fundraising platform WinRed); Trump lures GOP senators on impeachment with cold cash (Politico, October 2019) (in which Trump sends a letter soliciting donations to Sens. Ernst, Gardner, and Tillis, all of whom are facing tough races in 2020, after these senators sign a resolution calling impeachment 'unprecedented and undemocratic')
posted by box (57 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ah well.
posted by Melismata at 12:33 PM on December 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


Grifters all the way down.
posted by adamrice at 12:35 PM on December 23, 2019 [20 favorites]


Oh god I needed that laugh
posted by schadenfrau at 12:38 PM on December 23, 2019 [13 favorites]


Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
- Augustus de Morgan
posted by biogeo at 12:40 PM on December 23, 2019 [48 favorites]


“What do you love more?” the advertisement asks. “Christmas or Donald Trump?”

Bit of a 'Cake or Death' moment there. I'll take Christmas, please.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:56 PM on December 23, 2019 [34 favorites]


Unrelatedly, I think I have an idea of how we can fully fund MeFi for the next 8 years at least.
posted by turbowombat at 1:00 PM on December 23, 2019 [142 favorites]


The same forces at work dissolving the relevance of truth in favor of a thousand micro-realities where the only facts are whatever you and your followers decide are facts, are responsible for this kind of mass grift. Even if it draws funding away from Trump towards groups that have no intention of using the money to help his re-election campaign, which would maybe be the best outcome, it's still driven by the same forces that will atomize society. So it's hard to feel particularly happy that one of the symptoms of this debilitating disease happens to have pleasant side effects.
posted by chrominance at 1:08 PM on December 23, 2019 [16 favorites]


63 million suckers, just waiting to be conned (Paul Waldman, WaPo Opinion) (refers to MeFi favorite Rick Perlstein's 'The Long Con')
Even the semi-legitimate ones are essentially pulling a scam. Some of these groups do indeed spend a portion of their contributions on pro-Trump advertising, but it’s only after they pay hefty fees to the consultants who set up the group in the first place.
And another previously, from July 2019, with the inspired title 'Scam PACs ignore facts for fat stacks, then slack' (in which the Conservative Majority Fund raises $10 million and spends $48,400 on campaign contributions)
posted by box at 1:14 PM on December 23, 2019 [16 favorites]


63 million suckers, just waiting to be conned

Yep - the entire GOP base has essentially self-selected into a mouthwatering "suckers list" of the kind scammers covet. I'm guessing it's being further refined, resold and weaponized as we speak.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:34 PM on December 23, 2019 [14 favorites]


Oh man, wouldn't it be great to start an organization or PAC raising funds in Trump's name based on something Trump paid lip service to but never delivered on and then donate to the actual money to charities or democratic candidates with a better track record at that thing?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:44 PM on December 23, 2019 [19 favorites]


I think I have an idea of how we can fully fund MeFi for the next 8 years at least.

Do you hate FAKE NEWS? Do you want to see the SWAMP DRAINED? Are you worried about BERNIE'S SCATTERBRAINED PLANS for America's future? Support the last site for REAL DISCUSSION of the TRUTH in politics...
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:44 PM on December 23, 2019 [38 favorites]


I wonder if there Democratic leaning groups doing the same thing? Personally, I only donate directly to my candidates or go work in their campaigns.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:15 PM on December 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


This is the direct result of the Dark Money game of politicking. Pandora, your box is open.
posted by chavenet at 2:23 PM on December 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


Let me remind everyone that the trump campaign is also a scam...

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/nov/08/trump-dinner-meal-donors-win-prizes

Yeah all those “win a chance to meet trump!” events are of course complete scams. He would never meet an actual poor person on purpose.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:38 PM on December 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


Isn't this a classic movie plot: the scammer gets scammed by a smarter scammer, and can't do anything because he is a crook?
posted by mumimor at 2:42 PM on December 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


I've wondered about this... pivot off the MAGA slogan, who's to say precisely how we can pursue greatness? Booting Trump and the rest of the GOP out of office seems a really good way to pursue greatness, to me...
posted by jzb at 2:47 PM on December 23, 2019


A foole & his money,
be soone at debate:
which after with sorow,
repents him to late.

Thomas Tusser in Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie (1573)
posted by General Malaise at 2:48 PM on December 23, 2019 [9 favorites]


I, uh, might have conjectured about doing this in a megathread once. AFAICT, the evidence was destroyed.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:49 PM on December 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


Oh man, wouldn't it be great to start an organization or PAC raising funds in Trump's name based on something Trump paid lip service to but never delivered on and then donate to the actual money to charities or democratic candidates with a better track record at that thing?

This is precisely the kind of tooth-and-nail ratfuckery the US left needs to embrace if it wants to actually save lives through its politics rather than merely enjoy the impotent moral high ground.

The best part being, of course, when it's eventually revealed, the only ill-effect will be to undermine the credibility of pro-Trump fundraising.
posted by ryanshepard at 3:07 PM on December 23, 2019 [7 favorites]


ryanshepard: "The best part being, of course, when it's eventually revealed, the only ill-effect will be to undermine the credibility of pro-Trump fundraising."

Well, that and being an argument in favor of campaign finance reform. Warren, get on this. You've already used false advertising to good effect.
posted by adamrice at 3:38 PM on December 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


I mean, I saw that Politico article earlier today and thought, "this is what I should have thought of years ago! A fake super PAC that defrauds the right wing base, the RNC, and enriches me a lot!" Here's my plan:

1. Start a consulting firm, cause they get paid a lot. And I can be CEO and stuff
2. Start a super PAC based on the president, and do what these PACs are doing
3a. Pay a little bit of money to advertise on behalf of the president where it doesn't make a difference, like rural Alabama or Montana or whatever
3b. Maybe hype him up as even more of a fascist than he is--paint him as crazy as possible
4. Pay the consulting firm a lot
5.
6. Profit

I'll fund MeFi for a while as a tax deduction, too.
posted by Snowishberlin at 3:39 PM on December 23, 2019 [13 favorites]


“The practical recourse is to monitor these groups for fraud.”

Is there even a case for fraud for a super PAC? I thought the whole point of those things is supposed to be that they're firewalled from coordination with individual campaigns. I guess it'd be possible to cross the line of fraud by suggesting President Trump actually endorses your fundraising efforts when he's never heard of you (although one can demonstrate Trump says he's never heard of all kinds of people he's actually had close dealings with), but presumably just as importantly that crosses lines of coordination.

With a lay understanding of the rules, I can't think of a any reason why anyone isn't totally free to make a SuperPAC called MAKE MAR A LAGO THE WHITEHOUSE AGAIN, do the usual fundraising efforts, and spend it on anything that might reasonably be construed as political activity.
posted by wildblueyonder at 4:09 PM on December 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


Lol. This is great.
posted by fshgrl at 4:33 PM on December 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


Aside from public statements, “the practical recourse is to monitor these groups for fraud,” said Jan Baran, former counsel for the RNC.

Is it really fraud if you're using Trump's name to defraud people? People who give money to a Trump-inspired group are effectively asking to be fleeced. At some point we need to hold Trump's victims responsible, and I think even Trump would agree with that, to the extent that anyone else should be to blame.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:41 PM on December 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


Thoughts and prayers.
posted by ocschwar at 5:07 PM on December 23, 2019 [16 favorites]


Getting ripped off by PACs might be the only thing that gets Trump to ensure the FEC convenes again.
posted by RakDaddy at 5:44 PM on December 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


On the one hand, take that money and burn it.

On the other hand these folks are a constituency for a regime of grift and that's not good.

On the other other hand, Trump must be fuming about this more that impeachment: That money is rightfully mine.

I think I can live with this.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:48 PM on December 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


People who give money to a Trump-inspired group are effectively asking to be fleeced.

Honestly. Fraud implies the involvement of a party who is able to conceive of agreements in terms of good faith towards some well-articulated and mutually agreed-on execution. Someone who still believes that Donald Trump is in any way capable of even a well-articulated agreement much less good faith is someone who is fundamentally not competent to distinguish such things.

Also, even leaving that aside, it'd be a bit like the client of a sex worker making charges of rape against the sex worker... technically possible (consent can always be withdrawn), but pretty unlikely. People who still support Trump not only want to be rolled, they want to believe they've got something special with him, and they'll love and cherish that lie.
posted by wildblueyonder at 6:08 PM on December 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


Imagine wanting to support a huckster but being too ignorant to figure out how. The Aristocrats.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:29 PM on December 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


I mean.. this isn't that different from the 'legitimate' political consultant of questionable efficacy grift as it now exists in the context of PACs designed to launder political donations.
posted by latkes at 7:02 PM on December 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


I wonder if there Democratic leaning groups doing the same thing? Personally, I only donate directly to my candidates or go work in their campaigns.

In addition to the Resistance grifters and the Jill Stein recount fund that comes to mind, John A from AmericaBlog caught some shit on twitter recently when it came out he SEOd a Kamala Harris actblue landing page to the top result for donations to her, but took a 50% cut by default for his PAC.
posted by theclaw at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


I have thought about doing one of those right wing fake news sites that does stories like HILLARY CLINTON ARRESTED, BILL BANGS BODY DOUBLE and OBAMA'S SECRET SATANISM REVEALED with a lightly-retouched picture of them and maybe 300 words of rambling text. I mean, I've run content sites, I'm very online, I've done online advertising, I could get the chuds and boomers sharing it. I just haven't squared myself with the Mother Night lesson of "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be" so I haven't done it yet.

But a PAC is right in the same wheelhouse for me so if someone figures out the ethics, please let me know. Right now the voice of Lone Star is saying, "We're not doin' it for money...we're doin' it for a shitload of money." But he hasn't won yet.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:22 PM on December 23, 2019 [12 favorites]


I mean.. this isn't that different from the 'legitimate' political consultant of questionable efficacy grift as it now exists in the context of PACs designed to launder political donations.

Yes! Yes, that is the whole thing right there. PACs are designed and intended for grift.
posted by sjswitzer at 7:30 PM on December 23, 2019 [7 favorites]


The more Trumpist support money goes to fake PACs, the less goes to help the Donald get re-electoral-colleged. I thoroughly support these grifters.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:48 PM on December 23, 2019


One one level, let_them_fight.jpeg.

On another, a couple of weeks back there was a story about a bunch of anti-vaxxers who showed up at the New Jersey statehouse to protest the state's proposed bill ending non-medical exemptions for vaccinations. The room they ended up in was actually for the board meeting of NJ Transit. A staffer tried to be helpful and tell them that where the committee room for deputations actually was, but being a bunch of scared gullible people who have been trained to distrust anyone from officialdom, they thought the staffer was trying to trick them and refused to go to the right room.

Anyway, my point is that these days people badly want to belong in some group or another and they'll throw anything overboard...money, logic, the health of their children...to be part of the crowd.
posted by dry white toast at 10:04 PM on December 23, 2019 [23 favorites]


David Malki ! (of Wondermark fame) subscribed to all the candidates' newsletters back in 2016. The outcome meant there wasn't much fun he could do with it, but before the election he observed how heavily the Trump e-mails treated their recipients like marks.
posted by mark k at 11:28 PM on December 23, 2019 [8 favorites]


David Malki... subscribed to all the candidates' newsletters

That is what I would call investigative journalism! Strangely, few others even attempt it.
posted by sjswitzer at 11:38 PM on December 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


You could probably get away with something similar in the UK. Example advert:

"Want Brexit? Text ..... to donate £5"

Call the company Brexit Marketing.

Live off the proceeds whilst the pound still has some value.
posted by zeripath at 12:39 AM on December 24, 2019


wildblueyonder: I thought the whole point of those things is supposed to be that they're firewalled from coordination with individual campaigns.

I thought that, too. Wouldn't the Trump campaign be crossing into illegality if they tried to force the PACs to coordinate with them? Or do I misunderstand the current state of the law in the U.S.?
posted by clawsoon at 3:37 AM on December 24, 2019


So, it would be perfectly legal to set one of these up, state that you are helping Trump, and then use the money to help Trump retire to a penitentiary.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:22 AM on December 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


While I don't know this for a fact, I suspect the Trump campaign would not be crossing into illegality.
posted by box at 5:24 AM on December 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


"Politico reports that the campaign has “sent letters to the Federal Election Commission calling for all outside groups except America First to cease operations,” referring to the Trump-affiliated super PAC. That strategy could be a lot more effective if the White House hadn’t kneecapped the ability of the FEC to properly enforce election laws by keeping the regulatory agency under its four-commissioner minimum." (NYMag, August 2019 and today)
posted by box at 5:48 AM on December 24, 2019 [6 favorites]


Every once in a while I take a look at the conservative websites and social forums and it would be so easy to join under an anonymous username and start gaming them. It wouldn't take much time, it would be fun, and it would probably be more impactful than anything else I could do politically. I wouldn't have to make any comments against the site rules or even against the spirit of the place. I could just, spitballing, start posting about how Trump only eats burgers so I've decided to only eat burgers until he wins in 2020, will you join me? Or some other inanity. But I can't and would never do it.

There is a moral argument, which is I truly believe it's going on all around us right now. I read comments from different users, even here, that put forward opinions I feel must have originated from Russian messaging farms. They are obviously, to me, designed as poison pills to further divide voters. I spend a lot of time combating that kind of thing, and it takes a lot of work on my part. It's so easy to put forward that the world is flat. It's so hard to convince someone that's not the case once they've bought in.

So, while I would never want to add fuel to the fire that is the dumpster fire of American politics right now, I also have to acknowledge people are lighting my dumpster on fire. I'm spending a lot of time putting it out. I feel fairly close to saying screw it, and simply lighting theirs on fire as well to even things up. As it is, we're fighting on an asymmetric battlefield against an enemy with no scruples, and they are winning because of it.
posted by xammerboy at 6:17 AM on December 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


You could probably get away with something similar in the UK.

I'm surprised that the paragon of parasites in UK politics, Jacob "The Bedbug" Rees-Mogg hasn't done this yet.
posted by mephron at 7:22 AM on December 24, 2019


Dry white toast, I think this is what happens when the human instinct to do something meets decades of effort to make sure nothing can be done.
posted by quillbreaker at 7:54 AM on December 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


I've often wondered what, if any, law would prevent me from starting a PAC by spending a few hundred on postcards with photoshopped pictures of Hillary Clinton behind bars and sending those postcards in a mass mailing to the conservative leaning parts of the city.
The postcards would beg for money to help keep America great and something about impeaching Hillary Clinton.
Then take the money, keep half of it as administrative fees and salary for staff and then take the other half and reinvest it in another ridiculous postcard campaign. Repeat this process, snowballing a bit more money each time.
posted by kzin602 at 9:26 AM on December 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


I wonder if there Democratic leaning groups doing the same thing?

Yes.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:57 PM on December 24, 2019


Remember all the money that was given to Jill Stein to count the votes or whatever?
posted by xammerboy at 8:07 PM on December 24, 2019 [7 favorites]


What happened to Jill Stein's Recount Millions? (Daily Beast, June 2018)

tl;dr She spent some of it on re-counting, paid some of it to her former campaign staff, and stopped filing FEC reports with about a million dollars left on hand. Later, the FEC deadlocked (WSJ, September 2018) on a party-line vote about whether to investigate foreign donations to the Stein campaign, ending the investigation. After the Center for Public Integrity brought attention (CPI, December 2018) to the campaign not paying FEC fines, they paid some of them in February of this year.

I was reminded of Stein's role in 2016 when I read a recent Jonathan Chait article in New York magazine: Tulsi Gabbard and the return of the anti-anti-Trump left
posted by box at 6:09 AM on December 25, 2019 [11 favorites]


Me: "Did you hear Bloomberg is targeting middle-class people to fund his presidential election campaign?"
Trumper: "Outrageous! He's a billionaire; why does he need to take money from ordinary shmoes??
Me: "Did I say Bloomberg? I meant Trump."
Trumper:
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:32 AM on December 25, 2019 [13 favorites]


kzin602--we should def work together. I can imagine employing homeless people and people in economic need, paying people without tax documents cash under the table... but does it have to be postcards? That sounds more legit, but I would think emails would be fine, too.
posted by Snowishberlin at 1:22 PM on December 25, 2019


Me: "Did you hear Bloomberg is targeting middle-class people to fund his presidential election campaign?"
Trumper: "Outrageous! He's a billionaire; why does he need to take money from ordinary shmoes??
Me: "Did I say Bloomberg? I meant Trump."
Trumper:


Bloomberg: Mr Bloomberg said he learned about the company's use of prison labour only after receiving a call from a reporter.
posted by clawsoon at 2:09 PM on December 25 [2 favorites]


How about canvassing to fight windmill cancer and then giving the money to alternative energy research?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:25 PM on December 25 [4 favorites]


So... hypothetically if I started an organization called "The Committee for Re-Electing President Trump and Keeping America Great", sent out fundraising emails and letters, called up Republicans and asked for donations, etc then paid myself a salary amounting to, say, 99.9% of the money I raised with 0.1% being forwarded to the Republican National Committee, would that be illegal?

Because, I think I can whip up a red white and blue MAGA themed website pretty easily and, if it is legal, I honestly can't say I think I see anything immoral about intercepting Republican donations and keeping them from hurting America by funding Republican candidates.

How much of the money taken in has to actually go to the Republican Party to keep it from being fraud? 1%? Less? More?

What if a few other people started similar groups and we shuffled the money between the groups to whittle it down even more before a pittance ultimately made its way to the Republicans?
posted by sotonohito at 7:27 AM on December 28


The Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump foundation to Keep America Great by Keeping Christ in Christmas pledges that 100% of donations will be used to fight efforts by liberals to make saying Merry Christmas a felony!
posted by sotonohito at 7:40 AM on December 28


if I started an organization called "The Committee for Re-Electing President Trump and Keeping America Great", sent out fundraising emails and letters, called up Republicans and asked for donations, etc then paid myself a salary amounting to, say, 99.9% of the money I raised with 0.1% being forwarded to the Republican National Committee, would that be illegal?

As far as I know, while there's some limitations on who can donate how much and you'd need to keep records for that, this would be entirely legal. Look into the history of the Colbert Super PAC. In order to get around those pesky donation limits, you can set up a 501(c)(4) org that can take any level of anonymous donations!

You might have to prove you're actually doing election-related stuff, so... take out some newspaper ads. Buy some spots on Tumblr. Find some near-abandoned websites with "Your Ad Could Go Here" banners, and put your ads there.

Call it Keep America Great Always and sell KAGA hats and t-shirts. Don't call it "re-elect Trump," because mygods, then you'd have to shut it down or at least change the name after November 2020. Just put "Dedicated to Re-Electing The Greatest President America Has Ever Known" on the letterhead and donation request postcards.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:56 PM on December 28 [4 favorites]


What if a few other people started similar groups and we shuffled the money between the groups to whittle it down even more before a pittance ultimately made its way to the Republicans?

Something like this actually happened with NRA and NRATV (except more than a pittance made it to the GOP). It ended acrimoniously because, basically, there's only room for so many hands in the cookie jar.
posted by sjswitzer at 8:12 AM on December 31


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