FEC calls for ban on default recurring donation boxes

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Thursday recommended that Congress ban political campaigns from using pre-checked boxes on their websites that would automatically register donors to give recurring contributions.

The FEC recommendation came in the form of a unanimous vote from the six-member body, which is divided evenly between Republican and Democratic commissioners. The FEC said Congress should amend current law to mandate "affirmative consent" before donors are enrolled in a recurring contribution program. 

"The Commission's experience strongly suggests that many contributors are unaware of the 'pre-checked' boxes and are surprised by the already completed transactions appearing on account statements," the FEC said in its recommendation.

The recommendation follows a New York Times investigation that found that former President Trump's campaign in 2020 broadly utilized pre-checked recurring donations boxes. The campaign ultimately had to refund more than $122 million to online supporters.

Both parties have used pre-checked recurring donations boxes, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee using them as well. 

The FCC's recommendation has no force of law, a reflection of the agency's inability to unilaterally change election laws.