The campaign and WinRed, a contractor that processed the donations, automatically enrolled donors in an option to make their contribution not once, but again and again, every week until the election. If users wanted to make a one-time donation, the Times reported, they had to sift through several lines of fine print and uncheck a box.
The result, in many cases, was Trump supporters having thousands of dollars unexpectedly withdrawn from their bank accounts and not knowing why.
“It felt like a scam,” Russell Blatt, whose brother Stacy was charged $3,000 by the campaign, told theTimes.
Stacy Blatt had only intended to donate $500, but was charged that amount five more times in less than 30 days. At the time, Mr Blatt was in hospice care for cancer and living on less than $1,000 a month. His bank account emptied out, and his checks for rent and utilities bounced.
He asked Russell for help, and the two brothers called their bank to report the withdrawals as fraud.
They were far from the only ones. Victor Amelino, 78, made a $990 donation that the Trump campaign multiplied eight times, charging him $7,920.
“I’m retired,” Amelino told theTimes. “I can’t afford to pay all that damn money.”
In the end, the Trump campaign refunded $122.7 million in donations in 2020. The Biden campaign, by comparison, refunded $21 million.
Jason Miller, a spokesperson for Mr Trump, disputed those numbers.
“Our campaign was built by the hardworking men and women of America, and cherishing their investments was paramount to anything else we did,” Mr Miller told theTimes.
Gerrit Lansing, president of WinRed, pushed back as well, saying the company always emailed donors to confirm they wished to make repeat donations.
“WinRed wants donors to be happy, and puts a premium on customer support,” he told theTimes. “Donors are the lifeblood of GOP campaigns.”
The Independent has also reached out to WinRed for comment, but the company has not yet responded.