Updated May 5, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Elderly Bossie donors say they thought they were helping Trump

About two-thirds of the contributions made to David Bossie's Presidential Coalition in 2017 and 2018 came from donors giving less than $200 in a single year. And of the donors identified in its tax forms, most said they were retired.

Data: Presidential Coalition's forms 8872 from the IRS; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios
Data: Presidential Coalition's forms 8872 from the IRS; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Facebook's political ad archive shows that most of the organization's ads "are overwhelmingly targeted to, and viewed by, Facebook users 65 and older," according to CLC’s report.

  • And one of the Presidential Coalition's top fundraising vendors, the telemarketing firm InfoCision, paid a settlement after being accused by the Federal Trade Commission of engaging in "false and misleading" tactics and accused by former employees of preying on the elderly, CLC points out.
  • "Steve Brubaker, chief of staff for InfoCision, said the company disputes the allegations but agreed to settle the case to avoid a lengthy court battle," per the Center for Public Integrity.

Yes, but: "Most organizations, left or right, in this space target an older demographic. Not to scam them, though that does exist, but because they're most likely to donate," said Walter Lukens, CEO of the Lukens Company, a direct response marketing agency.

Axios reached out to more than a dozen of these donors, most of whom were retired. They all said they thought their money was going toward supporting the president.

  • "I gave them money after seeing their mailers, and because I think Trump deserves it. … I'm old and easily fooled I guess. … It's disappointing, very disappointing," Wallace Payne, an 86-year-old Republican from Paynesville, Minnesota, told Axios after we informed him of the breakdown of spending.
  • "I thought the money was going toward the president," Barbara Bloom, a retired widow in her 70s, said: "You know, I'd get repeated duplicates for things. [Their mailers] would most of the time say the first $15 was for your membership, but how many times do you pay membership? … It's ridiculous, it's insulting. I'm just really disenchanted with it all."
  • Even one of the Presidential Coalition's biggest individual donors, 85-year-old George Kunkel, who gave $101,000 during 2017 and 2018, said he thought "the money goes toward supporting the president": "I know some of it went to the president and his campaign because I saw the ads," he told Axios before we shared details of how the money was spent.

Go deeper: Axios' full investigation into David Bossie's Presidential Coalition

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