The Lead

Pa. Democrat proposes banning controversial campaign fundraising tactic

By: - February 15, 2022 2:41 pm

Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, D-Delaware, speaks during a Jan. 25, 2022, Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting. (Screenshot)

Legislation that would ban a fundraising tactic pioneered by former President Donald Trump — and deemed unethical after duping supporters into recurring donations — is in the works for Pennsylvania.

Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, D-Delaware, announced plans for legislation prohibiting candidates from using prechecked boxes to default into recurring campaign contributions.

“Under current law, political candidates and committees are allowed to engage in deceptive fundraising practices, purposefully obscuring a default feature of solicitations that automatically enrolls individuals into recurring donation programs,” Cappelletti wrote in a Tuesday memo to colleagues seeking support for her proposal. “Instead of promoting supporters to choose either one-time or recurring donations, the option to provide recurring donations is pre-selected for them.”

After Trump used the strategy, thousands complained after being charged several times for what they meant to be a one-time donation. Eventually, his campaign and the Republican National Committee refunded more than $122 million to online donors.

In Pennsylvania, some gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates have taken a page out of Trump’s financing playbook and are using the prechecked boxes to finance their campaigns.

In May, the Federal Election Commission, which oversees campaign finance laws, unanimously recommended that Congress ban the practice. Federal lawmakers also introduced a proposal prohibiting candidates from using prechecked boxes.

“Individuals who intend to provide a single donation but erroneously overlook the fine print of the prechecked recurring donation box, are alarmed to find additional donation amounts are being withdrawn from their bank accounts on a regular schedule — often monthly or weekly,” Cappelletti wrote.

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