MSNBC – MaddowBlog -From The Rachel Maddow Show
Team Trump’s fundraising tactics face difficult questions (again)
Donald Trump’s team told donors they could win a dinner with the former president. No winner was ever chosen. The pattern of dubious tactics doesn’t help.
If you’re on the mailing list for Donald Trump’s political operation, you probably received a recent email about a contest. In fact, you probably received several such emails, alerting you to an exciting possibility: By making a contribution of any size, you’d become eligible to win a dinner with the former president in New Orleans.
The Republican’s leadership PAC, Save America, made the fundraising appeal sound quite enticing, telling prospective donors that Team Trump would pay for the meal, the plane ticket, and even the price of the room at a “very nice” hotel. All the former president’s supporters had to do was throw some money his way.
The Washington Post reported that someone was supposed to win this contest, but no one did.
[N]o such winner was flown to New Orleans last weekend, according to four people familiar with the matter. No flight or “very nice” hotel was booked. Trump had no individual meeting with a small-dollar donor, instead only privately greeting a handful of Republican Party donors who gave large checks, taking pictures with some of the party’s most well-heeled members and speaking to a larger group of donors who each gave tens of thousands of dollars.
By way of an explanation, a spokesperson for the former president told the Post, “President Trump has awarded more than 100 prizes to contest winners across America, but due to an administrative error in this individual circumstance, the contest winner was not properly notified for last weekend’s event in New Orleans. Consistent with the rules of the sweepstakes, a substitute prize will be awarded to the winner.”
Naturally, there are some legal questions surrounding such circumstances: If a political operation commits to naming a winner to a contest, and collects money as part of the arrangement, there’s an expectation that the operation will deliver. The article added, “Legal experts and former prosecutors said the question is whether the author of the fundraising solicitations knew there would never be a dinner with Trump.”
In other words, if a genuine “administrative error” occurred “in this individual circumstance,” then this was an accident, and Save America has nothing to worry about.
In fact, at face value, the controversy exposed by the Post apparently ran its course rather quickly: Team Trump conceded that the reporting was accurate, acknowledged the mistake, and said it intended to take steps to put things right. So, problem solved?
First, the former president himself intervened over the weekend in ways that weren’t exactly helpful. On Saturday, the day after his spokesperson told the Post that it’s reporting was correct and there’d been an “administrative error,” Trump issued a written statement claiming that the article was “inaccurate” and “fake news.”
That ought to help clear things up.
Second, it’s awfully tough to give Trump and his team the benefit of the doubt when questions arise about sketchy fundraising tactics.
As regular readers know, before the Republican even reached the White House, Trump had an unusually ugly record when it came to separating those he perceives as fools from their money. He ran a fraudulent charitable foundation, for example, and created a fraudulent “university” that was designed to do little more than rip off its “students.”
The pattern of dubious schemes didn’t end there. As Election Day 2020 approached, Trump relied on brazenly underhanded tactics. The New York Times reported nearly a year ago that banks and credit card companies were soon inundated “with fraud complaints from the president’s own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.”
After Trump lost, his operation sent additional appeals, pleading with donors to “join the fight” to “secure our elections.” In reality, the Republicans didn’t use any of the raised money to finance any fights related to securing any elections.
Now there was an “administrative error” that prevented Team Trump from fulfilling a pledge made in fundraising messages? Maybe so, but it’s not like these guys have a reservoir of credibility from which to draw.
Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”