The grift begins.
Within hours of former President Donald Trump being federally indicted, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) was already fundraising off of the news ― for Trump, but almost entirely for herself.
“President Trump has been indicted on federal charges,” reads the subject line of a Thursday-night email from Team Elise, Stefanik’s joint fundraising committee.
“Biden’s weaponized federal government has handed President Trump BOGUS CHARGES over the ‘Boxes Hoax,’” says the email. “They are just trying to keep him out of the White House in 2024. President Trump needs ALL of his loyal supporters to stand with him at this crucial time.”
“RUSH A DONATION TO OUR OFFICIAL TRUMP DEFENSE FUND TO STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP,” the email shouts.
It’s pretty tacky to raise money off of a former president being indicted, but that’s not the worst of it. Stefanik uses a sneaky tactic in her fundraising email to try to get as much money from people as possible, even if they may not realize what they’re agreeing to.
Her email is set up so that if you click through to donate money to Trump, the website automatically checks a little box making your donation a monthly recurring donation. You have to be paying attention to notice this.
And even though Stefanik’s fundraising email and landing page say these donations are for an official defense fund for Trump, when you read the fine print, you can see that virtually all of that money is set up to go to Stefanik.
Underneath brightly colored graphics of suggested donation amounts that you can directly click on ― $100, $500 or even $3,300, the maximum donation allowed ― is a tiny sentence that says to click on it for details about how your donation will be allocated. It’s here that you can see where your money is automatically set up to go.
A $250 donation to the “OFFICIAL TRUMP DEFENSE FUND,” for example, breaks down to $247.50 for Stefanik and $2.50 for the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee.
A $500 donation translates to $495 for Stefanik and $5 for Trump.
A $3,300 donation breaks down to $3,267 for Stefanik and $33 for Trump.
You can edit these allocations, of course. But you have to be paying attention to that little sentence in the first place, and to the fact that you can edit the preset allocations.
A Stefanik spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on why she is raising money off of Trump’s indictment, or why she is raising money for a so-called official defense fund for Trump when most of that money is set to go directly to her campaign.
Democrats are hoping to make some money off of Trump’s indictment, too.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is running for Senate, sent out a fundraising email Thursday night warning that Trump is going to “lash out at his enemies” now that he’s been indicted for a second time. Schiff said he’s going to be at the “top of his list” for ugly attacks.
“Rush $10 to my campaign right now to help us prepare for Trump’s inevitable attacks ― and ensure we defeat him and his MAGA movement in 2024,” reads the email from the Schiff for Senate Campaign. “Once and for all.”
His email does not automatically sign people up for monthly recurring donations, though, and it directs all donations to his Senate campaign.
A Schiff spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on why he’s fundraising off of the former president’s indictment.
The Democratic Governors Association on Friday also made a fundraising appeal, asking supporters in an email to take a survey about Trump’s indictment that actually leads to asking for money.
Of course, Trump, who regularly sends out fundraising emails for himself, has already sent out three such emails since being indicted Thursday night.
The first one has the subject line “MY FIRST TIME SPEAKING SINCE INDICTMENT,” and it leads to a four-minute video of Trump saying he’s innocent and a written plea for money. The second one decries “the never-ending witch hunts” facing Trump and leads to another video of the former president saying he’s innocent. The third one offers to throw in a free T-shirt if you give Trump money before midnight on Friday.
None of his emails automatically signs people up for monthly recurring donations if they give him money, and all direct the full donation to his campaign.