State Watch

Attorneys general looking into online fundraising practices

Four state attorneys general are looking into online fundraising practices of both the Republican and Democratic parties, a person familiar with the matter told The Hill on Friday.

The investigations are being conducted by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D), Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D).

The Washington Post reported Thursday that letters were sent to WinRed, a Republican fundraising platform, and ActBlue, a similar platform for Democrats.

A court filing on Wednesday from WinRed showed a letter detailing the state officials’ investigation into the company’s practice of using pre-checked boxes to get recurring donations from political donors who may not have realized the boxes were checked, The Post reported.

“Our offices have significant experience with pre-checked solicitations and other forms of ‘negative option’ marketing to consumers,” the letter from the state AGs read, according to the Post. “We believe that such solicitations can be inherently misleading, and result in consumers making unwanted and unintended purchases.”

The investigation by the attorneys general was first reported by the Washington Examiner.

WinRed argued on its website that the investigation amounted to a political play by Democrats, and the attorneys general are “exploiting their positions of power for partisan gain and targeting WinRed for fundraising tactics that Democrats themselves pioneered and still use to this day.”

Frosh’s office, which would not confirm or deny the investigation, told The Hill in a statement that Maryland law “protects ALL consumers from misleading and deceptive practices. If WinRed did not mislead or cheat donors in our state, they have nothing to worry about.”

“Protecting consumers is a job that falls primarily on the states and knows no political party. Every Minnesotan is protected under the law from fraud and deception. It’s the Attorney General’s job to protect Minnesotans and enforce those laws, no matter who may break them,” John Stiles, the spokesperson for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, said in a statement to The Hill. 

Tong’s office in Connecticut confirmed the probe.

“We initiated this investigation to protect consumers, regardless of their party affiliation, from an alleged unfair and deceptive marketing practice. We look forward to working with our sister states to defend our investigations and will continue fighting to protect consumers,” his office said in a statement.

The Hill has reached out to ActBlue for comment.

Updated at 11:32 a.m.

Tags ActBlue campaign contributions Campaign finance Connecticut Keith Ellison Maryland Minnesota New York online fundraising WinRed
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