Senate Rules Committee chair Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is expected to introduce legislation on Monday that prohibits political campaigns from guiding online donors to recurring donations by default, a practice that has drawn criticism for prompting supporters to do so. involuntary gifts that sometimes total thousands of dollars.
The bill’s planned introduction follows a bipartisan recommendation by the Federal Election Commission that Congress act to curb the practice of checkboxes that automatically enlist donors to make repeat donations. The FEC. voted unanimously, 6-0, to recommend the change, after a New York Times investigation of the practice showed it has led to an increase in refunds and fraud claims from contributors of former President Donald J. Trump.
Ms. Klobuchar, who heads the rules committee that oversees the administration of federal elections, calls the bill the RECUR law to “save every contributor from unwanted recurrences.” At the moment, she only has Democratic co-sponsors, including Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who is the second Democrat to head the Senate and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But Ms Klobuchar said she hoped she could attract Republican co-sponsors after all three FEC Republican commissioners joined Democrats in recommending the practice’s ban – a rare moment of agreement in an often-defined agency by a partisan impasse.
“We need to make sure that we encourage people who can only contribute small amounts to make their voices heard but not to benefit from it,” Ms. Klobuchar said in an interview.
In a statement, Mr. Durbin said he was “proud” to present the bill with Ms. Klobuchar. “In a bipartisan recommendation, the Federal Election Commission urged Congress to take action to end donation practices – widely employed by the Trump campaign – that prompt contributors to recurring payments,” he said.
The Times investigation found that the cash-strapped Mr. Trump’s political operation had caused his online contributors to become unwitting repeat donors by checking a box to withdraw additional donations as often as weekly l last fall; their requests also included a second pre-checked box called the “money bomb”. Over time, the campaign added text, sometimes in bold or all caps, that obscured the opt-out language. Soon, banks and credit card companies saw a flood of fraud complaints.
In total, Operation Trump with the Republican Party repaid $ 122.7 million to donors who gave through the online processing site WinRed, or more than 10% of every dollar raised. In contrast, President Biden’s campaign with the party’s online reimbursement rate was 2.2% on ActBlue, the Democratic equivalent treatment site.
While the practice of pre-checking the boxes is currently much more common among Republicans, Democrats have also used this tactic in the past. Some prominent Democratic Party committees continue to deploy it. And Mr. Trump continued the practice in his post-presidency.
Ms Klobuchar’s legislation would require all political committees to receive “affirmative consent” to receive donations, and she explicitly says that pre-checked boxes do not meet that requirement.
“If you have any experience and look at this you know this is just pure fraud,” Ms. Klobuchar said of the preclearance practice, “and it’s nothing that should be allowed in the future. “
Ms Klobuchar said the FEC’s unanimous vote had been “very helpful” in creating momentum for its legislation, which is a two-page stand-alone bill but could be incorporated into other election-related laws. Democrats are currently pushing for legislation that would enact a major overhaul of the elections, but the prospects for this bill remain bleak.