A federal judge in Minnesota on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit filed by WinRed, a company that handles online donations for Republicans, that sought to block the state attorney general from investigating fundraising tactics that raised money. make a fraud claim.
Attorneys general from four states – New York, Minnesota, Maryland and Connecticut – first sent a letter to WinRed last April, asking for the following documentation: a New York Times investigation disclosed the company’s use of pre-checked boxes to automatically enroll donors in recurring donation programs. The boxes have skyrocketed demand for refunds from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.
WinRed declined to provide the documents and instead went to federal court to argue that federal law should preempt any state consumer investigation. Chief Justice John R. Tunheim of the US District Court in Minnesota ruled against the company on Wednesday.
Judge Tunheim dismissed WinRed’s attempt to prevent the attorney general from investigating outside of Minnesota, ruling that he had no jurisdiction. He ruled in favor of Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison, writing that federal law would not impose a state investigation.
“Courts have confirmed an important principle that has nothing to do with politics: State attorneys general can use their state’s laws and investigative tools to protect consumers in their state. from harm, deception and abuse,” Mr. Ellison said.
Judge Tunheim also denied a request to block a subpoena from the attorney general, made July 16 of last year, shortly after WinRed’s appearance in federal court, according to a ruling issued Wednesday.
“WinRed will appeal,” the company said in an emailed statement.
WinRed has argued that the attorney general, all Democrats, is politically motivated. However, all four also submitted a similar document request last year to ActBlue, the top Democratic donations processing platform. ActBlue said Wednesday that it also received a subpoena and that it shared the requested information.
Following Wednesday’s ruling, Attorney General Brian Frosh of Maryland urged WinRed to cooperate with the investigation.
“Now that its case has been dismissed, we hope that WinRed will move from a strategy of attack, attack, attack and cooperate in investigating allegations that it has deceived consumers. nationwide,” he said in a statement.
In the fall of 2020, the Trump campaign used pre-checked boxes to get permission from a donor to withdraw extra donations each week – then obscure that fact below additional text unrelated to additional withdrawals. In the weeks and months that followed, demand for refunds surged as backers said they had been tricked into unintentional donations.
All told, Trump’s activism, working with the Republican Party, has returned more than 10% of every dollar raised through WinRed during the 2020 campaign – a rate more than four times that of the Party’s activism. Democrat Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Last year, the bipartisan Federal Election Commission voted unanimously to recommended that Congress ban the practice among the pre-checked recurring donation boxes. The law has since been applied in both House and Senate.
Kitty Bennett contributed research.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/26/us/politics/winred-investigation-republican-fundraising.html Judge says states can investigate WinRed’s fundraising tactics