Trump Campaign Fundraising Tactic Enters Congressional Spotlight

  • Bill would ban pre-checked recurring contribution boxes
  • Klobuchar introducing it following FEC recommendation

A leading Democrat plans to introduce legislation to ban the practice of campaigns automatically collecting recurring contributions, following a unanimous recommendation by the Federal Election Commission.

Senate Rules and Administration Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Thursday she would introduce the measure in response to the election panel’s urging to combat the tactic’s proliferation.

“As we work to reform our campaign finance system, we must ensure that people who can only contribute small amounts are empowered to make their voices heard — but that will only happen if Americans trust that campaigns aren’t taking advantage of them through tactics like pre-checked recurring donation boxes,” Klobuchar said in a Wednesday evening statement, citing the FEC vote.

Klobuchar indicated she’ll introduce a stand-alone bill rather than fold it into a larger elections package the Rules Committee plans to consider Tuesday. That legislation (S. 1) is a Senate version of a measure the House passed by a party-line vote. It faces entrenched Republican opposition.

Photographer: Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner/Bloomberg
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) plans to introduce legislation to ban campaigns from automatically collect recurring contributions.

A New York Times investigation last month found that former President Donald Trump’s campaign steered supporters into repeated donations through the use of a pre-checked box on a donation page treating a one-time contribution as a recurring contribution. The Trump campaign used complex and potentially confusing language and issued what’s likely an unprecedented amount in refunds to donors, the Times reported.

Campaigns and campaign committees in both parties have utilized pre-checked boxes in their respective online fundraising platforms.

The FEC said it made the recommendation after being “regularly contacted” by individuals who discover recurring contributions charged to their credit cards or deducted from checking accounts.

“In many cases, the contributors do not recall authorizing recurring contributions,” the commission said.

The FEC said campaigns shouldn’t be allowed to use such pre-checked boxes. It recommended Thursday that Congress should amend the federal campaign finance law to require those soliciting contributions to receive affirmative consent of contributors when setting up recurring contributions, provide a receipt, and “clearly and conspicuously disclose all material terms of recurring contributions to contributors at the time the contributions are set up.”

It said campaigns should also be required to provide information needed to cancel recurring contributions and to immediately cancel recurring contributions upon the request of contributors.

The recommendation was one of a package of 14 suggestions approved by the FEC, which is made up of three commissioners recommended by Democrats and three by Republicans. Most of the recommendations have been approved previously but not adopted by Congress. The commission usually makes a series of legislative recommendations annually.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com; Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com

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