GOP fundraising PAC accuses Ellison of politically motivated inquiry

Both parties are reportedly coming under fire for their use of pre-checked, recurring donation boxes on online fundraising platforms.

Lorie Shaull/Flickr

A Republican Party fundraising platform filed a federal complaint against Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and three of his colleagues Thursday, accusing them of conducting a politically-motivated inquiry into its business practices.

According to the complaint, Ellison teamed up with the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, and Maryland to launch a “state-law inquiry” into the “campaign-fundraising activities” of WinRed.

“These letters have sought a wide variety of information regarding WinRed’s organization, ownership and leadership, business model, its clients, its internal technical practices, and its internal communications, all while raising the specter of forthcoming enforcement actions with respect to deceptive solicitation practices,” the complaint states.

WinRed said it received its first letter from the Democratic attorneys general in late April, shortly after The New York Times ran a story on the platform’s use of pre-checked, recurring donation boxes.

WinRed maintains that this tactic was “pioneered” by Democrats and is still used by ActBlue, WinRed’s counterpart, to this day. The group has now asked a federal court in Minnesota to put an end to the inquiry, saying its business practices are governed solely by federal election law and Federal Election Commission regulations.

“Our state consumer protection laws are not preempted by the Federal Election Campaign Act,” the attorneys general responded to that argument, according to a letter included in WinRed’s complaint.

“These laws protect our residents from deceptive, unfair and fraudulent practices in the solicitation of contributions, including the use of pre-checked boxes to trap donors into making unintended recurring donations,” the letter said.

WinRed was launched in 2019 in response to the highly-lucrative ActBlue and has helped the GOP chip away at the Democratic Party’s fundraising advantage, the Washington Examiner reports.

“Only when Republicans began challenging the Democrats’ long-held advantage in online fundraising did these Democrat Attorneys General activate. It’s troubling to see these AGs attempt to use the power of their offices for the purpose of helping the Democrat Party,” WinRed said in a statement.

The Examiner said President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee both used pre-checked, recurring donation boxes. WinRed believes this makes Ellison’s actions “partisan and hypocritical.”

However, The New York Times reported Thursday afternoon that the Democratic AGs also sent a letter to and requested documents from ActBlue, where Ellison has an active fundraising page.

A spokesperson for Ellison told the Times that consumer protection “falls primarily on the states and knows no political party.”

Following the Times’ April report, the FEC asked Congress to consider a ban on the use of pre-checked, recurring donation boxes.