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The FEC wants Congress to ban a fundraising tactic used by the Trump campaign: ‘It’s almost like theft’

The Federal Election Commission in a rare unanimous vote has urged Congress to ban a campaign donation tactic reportedly used by former President Donald Trump’s team last year.

The FEC on Thursday unanimously voted to recommend Congress ban political campaigns from using prechecked boxes to steer supporters toward making recurring contributions by default, The New York Times reports.

“It’s important that donors be able to exercise their choices freely,” FEC Democratic commissioner Ellen Weintraub told the Times.
“If their money is being taken from them because of some reverse checkoff option they didn’t notice, then they are not giving their money freely. It’s almost like theft. I don’t want to see donors tricked.”

The Times previously reported that Trump’s campaign in 2020 “deployed prechecked boxes to enroll every donor in weekly withdrawals — unless they unchecked the box,” describing this as an “intentional scheme.” The Trump operation also reportedly prechecked an additional box that doubled an individual’s contribution unless it was unchecked, and they ended up having to refund over $122 million to supporters, according to the Times. This tactic has also been used by Democrats, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, The Hill notes.

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The FEC said in its recommendation that “many contributors are unaware of the ‘pre-checked’ boxes and are surprised by the already completed transactions appearing on account statements.” Adav Noti, who formerly served in the FEC’s general counsel’s office, told the Times that for the FEC’s Republican and Democratic commissioners to come to a unanimous agreement on a “substantive campaign finance law” recommendation like this is “pretty rare.”