WASHINGTON — Email fundraising appeals using Donald Trump's name are spreading through conservative email lists, despite the fact that Trump has said he doesn't need to fundraise.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that conservative publisher Newsmax was handling Trump's online fundraising, and had told other proprietors of conservative email lists that if they hosted Trump fundraising appeals the Trump campaign would give them 30% of the donations made through their lists. One example of a listserv doing this: Herman Cain's.
On Friday, BuzzFeed News was forwarded three other examples of Trump-related fundraising appeals — one of which explicitly asks for donations to Trump's campaign — that have appeared on conservative email lists in the past two weeks.
One, on Aug. 7, went out on a PJ Media list. The note at the top reads: "Dear Reader: In this email, you will find a special message from a paid sponsor, Donald J. Trump. Sponsorships like this help us continue to provide the insightful news and commentary you’ve come to expect from us. We appreciate your support. PJ Media, LLC." The body of the email is a letter from Trump that closely mirrors the text of a draft letter on Newsmax's site, and also matches the language in the appeal that went out on Cain's list.
The same letter was also sent out on August 11 on the Daily Caller's list.
"Currently, we don’t discuss our private business relationships with other specific conservative e-mail lists," Newsmax COO Andy Brown told BuzzFeed News. "As was stated in the Washington Post article, we do have relationships with a number of conservative e-mail lists."
Another appeal that went out on more than one list came from a PAC called True Conservatives. The group sent a letter with the same language out on two lists on Aug. 6 and Aug. 7, the Conservative Intelligence Briefing list and Our Friends of Freedom list, with the subject line "you're a useful idiot."
"Make no mistake—the Washington Establishment does not like conservatives like you. They do not even PRETEND to like us," the letter reads. "They see us as useful idiots whom they can use to get their hands on power, but then they turn around and knife us in the back."
The letter then describes how the True Conservatives group plans to target voters for Trump:
"Here at True Conservatives PAC, we have a really simple game plan:
Step 1: We call every primary voter in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Step 2: We ask them if they agree or disagree that we need a true conservative to lead on illegal immigration.
Step 3: If they say "yes," we tell them about Trump's stand on the issue. Then, we sign them up to support him in the primary. If they say "no", we hang up and check them off the list.
Step 4: Repeat every month until the election. That way we have a massive list of true conservatives and we have a massive list of persuadable voters.
Step 5: Before the primary we run targeted ads online and through the mail. If you're a true conservative, we make sure you're amped up to go vote. If you're undecided, we hammer home the dangers of our current system. We remind them how rudderless Washington is on the issue, and we explain how Trump will fight for them.
Step 6: Win."
According to Federal Election Commission filings, True Conservatives PAC has neither raised nor spent any money as of June 30. The PAC's website is DefendTheDonald.com.
Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks said she had "never heard of the PAC."
Fundraising and organizing through email lists is a key feature of modern political organizing, and is a thriving practice on the right, where lists are often sold and rented to various organizations and can include millions of addresses. Newsmax's Brown told BuzzFeed News that the Newsmax list has 4 million users.
According to a source familiar with the mechanics of conservative email list-selling, Newsmax charges different amounts for access to the lists with which it has relationships, including the National Review Exclusive Email, Dick Morris' list, Mike Huckabee's list, Cain's list, Tea Party Contacts, PJ Media's list, the American Spectator's list, and the USA Carry list. The lists are priced out at cost per thousand impression (cpm). Recent figures provided by a source to BuzzFeed News included a description of Huckabee’s list, for example, with 700,000 users at $25 cpm, adding up to a cost of $17,500 if someone wants to use the list. PJ Media, on the other hand, was described as having 100,000 users at a cost of $15 cpm, according to the figures provided to BuzzFeed News, and Cain’s list with 330,000 users at a cost of $12.50 cpm. (Newsmax's media kit lists PJ Media's list as having 125,000 users.)
Trump has said that he doesn't need to raise funds from donors and lobbyists for his campaign because he's so rich, but in recent days has started appearing at traditional political fundraisers as well as the ramped-up online fundraising campaign.
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.