Thursday kicked off the House Republicans’ annual retreat, and featured a compulsory presentation on the GOP’s answer to ActBlue, the grassroots, small-donor platform that Democrats have been using for well over a decade. It did not go well at all, according to POLITICO. House Republicans openly argued with Trump/RNC political operatives over the Jared Kushner-pushed initiative.
The new tool is called WinRed, and it was initially released in June. To say that it is problem-plagued would be an understatement. Suffice it to say that it is the antithesis of ActBlue—in more ways than one. Despite the obvious, that it’s a tool designed to help conservative candidates, the GOP’s new tool is:
- convoluted to use,
- for-profit (whereas ActBlue is nonprofit),
- secretive about plans for donors’ data,
- being forced upon candidates to use through “veiled threats”,
- and can take quite a large percentage of whatever donation is given.
According to David Nir:
For starters, there’s the grifty fee structure: While ActBlue charges a flat 3.95% per contribution, WinRed takes a 3.8% cut plus 30 cents per transaction. That might not sound like a big difference, but it’s huge. On a $5 contribution, ActBlue will net 20 cents. WinRed, however, will take 49 cents, which in percentage terms is a giant 9.8%.
What’s more, on a contribution page that lists multiple campaigns, it sounds like WinRed will get 30 cents per donation. (From the site itself: “There is a 3.8% + 30 cents per transaction fee with each donation made.”) In other words, if you split $25 across five candidates, that’s a cool $2.45 for WinRed. ActBlue would take less than a buck.
But that’s not all.
WinRed has quite a few privacy and security concerns as well. Members of Congress ”can’t get straight answers about what’s going to happen with their data.” That’s not something donors want to hear. However, GOP lawmakers at the retreat seemed less concerned about their donors’ information ending up in criminal hands as they were worried that their primary opponent might scoop that info, since all the data goes to the RNC’s clearinghouse firm, Data Trust.
By the way, if you thought you heard of Data Trust before, it’s because their records were involved in that massive data leak in 2017, where the personal information of millions of people—including birthdates, cell numbers, and addresses—was exposed when it was accidentally put on a publicly accessible Amazon server.
Bottom line: WinRed sucks. The candidates don’t trust it. The donors don’t like using it. The only reason it’s being used is because everyone is being coerced, which is slightly ironic given how much lip service the GOP gives to their supposed belief in the free market.
Several GOP candidates have complained that there was a competitor that actually did work, wasn’t secretive, and had lower fees. Give.GOP was gaining traction with a lot of candidates, but it’s parent company was recently given a cease and desist letter by the RNC, which forbade them from using any kind of GOP branding.
So the big question….. why would the RNC pick sides in a fight between for-profit competitors?
Since the RNC and the Trump 2020 campaign officially merged last year, Donald Trump has been calling the shots, and he made it clear that he wants everyone using WinRed. The platform is being forced upon the National Republican Senate Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee as well. Trump actually shilled for WinRed when it went live.
I am pleased to announce the launch of https://t.co/D1MY2aPC7f. This new platform will allow my campaign and other Republicans to compete with the Democrats money machine. This has been a priority of mine and I’m pleased to share that it is up and running! #KeepAmericaGreat
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2019
So, the short answer is that Trump wants it, and what Trump wants, Trump gets in his new GOP.
But why does Trump want to force everyone to use such a crappy fundraising tool that no one likes?
What Trump’s announcement did not mention was that the decision to use “WinRed” will potentially funnel millions of extra dollars to a firm owned by Gerrit Lansing, a former RNC staffer who left his White House job only three weeks into the administration after reportedly failing his FBI background screening.
What’s more, about two-thirds of the total processing fee is used to pay Stripe, the credit-card processing company that saw a $30 million investment from Joshua Kushner’s Thrive Capital in 2014.
Joshua Kushner is presidential son-in-law and White House aide Jared Kushner’s younger brother.
The victor is always the Trump family and their immediate friends.
—Rick Wilson, Republican political consultant
Since 2004, ActBlue has brought in 3.5 billion dollars for progressive candidates. Just imagine the money to be made by Kushner the younger if WinRed manages to gain a foothold and get even a small percentage of that kind of success.
Every day I learn about a new grift from this president. At least this one only hurts his supporters, for whom I have zero sympathy.