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California Clamps Down on Deceptive Campaign Fundraising Tactic

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Today Governor Gavin Newsom signed 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. California is one of only three states to pass legislation to ban this deceptive tactic.

“Hundreds of thousands of people were tricked into contributing over $122 million to Donald Trump’s campaign in 2020,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman. “Trump was not the only candidate to use this tactic to trick donors into giving more than they wanted to. AB 775 will ensure that Californians are not misled by candidates who turn a single campaign donation into repeated contributions without their consent. Candidates should not rely on deception and trickery to raise money to fund their campaigns.”

“This bill will put an end to a scheme that hurt Californians who were simply exercising their right to support a cause or candidate of their choice,” said Fair Political Practices Commission Chair Richard C. Miadich. “AB 775 assures those who give their hard-earned money to a campaign they won’t be taken advantage of by unscrupulous political players.”

Pre-checked donation boxes that automatically enroll donors in recurring payments at the time of an initial donation–often unbeknownst to the donor—have become increasingly popular. 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.

AB 775 received unanimous support in the Legislature and was supported by the Fair Political Practices Commission, California Common Cause, the Consumer Federation of California, and the League of Women Voters of California.