Like him or hate him, there is no question that supporters of Donald Trump are extremely passionate, and will go great lengths to help get him elected. They are also quick to pull out their pocketbooks to donate money if they think it will help get him elected (or even get them a chance to meet the legendary Trump in person). All this passion looked like an opportunity that was simply too good to pass up for unscrupulous marketer, Ian Hawes. Hawes is a 25-year-old resident of Maryland who describes himself on his Twitter bio as a ‘registered genius, board certified hacker, and grape soda connoisseur.’
Hawes registered a political action committee (PAC) to support Trump, and began running thousands of dollars’ worth of Facebook ads telling people that they could
win a dinner with Donald Trump himself. The site that the ads led to looked very similar to official Trump sites, and requested that people provide their email address in exchange for an entry into a drawing to have ‘Dinner with Donald.’
(the often unread fine print clarified that the dinner with Donald was actually just two tickets to a campaign event of Hawes’ choosing, likely without any real interaction with Trump himself).
Using this tactic, Hawes was able to collect over 410,000 people’s email addresses. As we all know, an email list of this size is extremely valuable.
For people who wanted an even better shot at the Dinner with Donald prize, there was also an option to donate cash to the PAC to double their chances (get another entry). At last count, this offer had brought in about $1.1 Million from a little over 21,000 donors!
People from across America were donating in amounts large and small, thinking that their donations would be used to help their candidate of choice get elected. At this point it is not entirely clear what all the money is being spent on since records aren’t due to the FEC until October. We do know, however, that at least $133,000 of the money was paid to CartSoft LLC, a company founded and owned by Hawes himself (surprise surprise). Hawes has also confirmed to POLITICO that the PAC has so far spent exactly $0 on behalf of Trump.
In addition to dinnerwithtrump.org, Hawes owns crookedhillary2016.org, which is promoting another contest that is meant to help revoke Hillary Clinton’s security clearance. Imwithtrump.org is also owned by Hawes, but at least as of now, the site is not being used.
The FEC has stated that they can’t do anything about this type of thing, or just about any other type of election fraud similar to this (which is surprisingly common).
Hawes said to POLITICO, “We use the money that we collect in a way that we feel best creates value for the people who have donated to us.” What that means is obviously very unclear. As of the end of June, the PAC has $88,197 in cash available.