Berman Introduces New Bill to Protect Campaign Donors from Deceptive Tactic

Thursday, June 17, 2021

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) have introduced new legislation, Assembly Bill 775, to ban political candidates or committees from pre-checking the recurring donation box on their websites, and to require them to obtain affirmative consent before enrolling campaign donors in recurring contributions.

“We recently learned that hundreds of thousands of people were tricked into contributing over $122 million to Donald Trump’s campaign in 2020, and that Caitlyn Jenner is using the same tactic right now to trick her donors into giving more than they intend to,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman, chair of the Assembly Elections Committee. “Assembly Bill 775 will ensure that Californians are not misled into making repeated and unintended donations. Candidates should not rely on deception and trickery to raise money to fund their campaigns.”

Pre-checked donation boxes that automatically enroll donors in reoccurring payments at the time of an initial donation–often unbeknownst to the donor—have become increasingly popular. Earlier this year, a New York Times investigation found that former President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign made extensive use of pre-checked recurring donation boxes. As the campaign’s use of those boxes increased, the campaign also saw a spike in contribution refund requests. Ultimately, the Trump campaign had to refund nearly 11% of the funds that it raised through its online platform, totaling more than $122 million. AB 775 specifically states that “passive action by the contributor, such as failing to uncheck a pre-checked box authorizing a recurring contribution, does not meet the requirement of affirmative consent.” In addition, the bill requires a candidate or committee that accepts a recurring contribution to provide a receipt for each contribution, to provide information necessary to cancel the recurring contribution, and to immediately cancel a recurring contribution upon request.

Last month the Federal Elections Commission, composed of three Democratic-aligned and three Republican commissioners, unanimously supported a recommendation that Congress outlaw the practice of using pre-checked boxes on campaign websites to automatically enroll donors in making recurring contributions. 

 

Contact: Kaitlin Curry: Kaitlin.Curry@asm.ca.gov