“CONFIDENTIAL: DON’T SHARE,” the Trump campaign texted me last month. “Pres. Trump requested your input on some key issues. We’ll send your answers to his desk in 1 HOUR.”
“Take Survey NOW,” the text continued, linking to a survey with questions like:
As of today, who will you vote for in 2020?
A Socialist Fraud
When I completed the survey, I was directed to a page asking me to donate between $42 and $2,800.
The Trump campaign sends multiple texts like these every day to me and millions of Americans whose numbers have ended up in the campaign’s database — often without the consent of the recipient.
Some of the texts are designed to make you feel special, like an extra-patriotic member of an exclusive club. They’ll dangle offers of signed MAGA hats or fancy dinners with the president, which no one appears to have ever won. “LAST DAY to accept your personal invitation to dinner with Pres. Trump in New York,” one campaign text advertised. “He’s waiting on your response, Jessica. Donate & WIN.”
For people who aren’t motivated by gimmicky contests, the campaign also utilizes shame: “Pres Trump noticed you ignored his text, Jessica. Your name’s still MISSING on the End of Month list. Donate in NEXT HOUR for a 6X-MATCH.”
Because of minimal government regulation around text messages, political campaigns are able to text thousands of people per hour, including people who didn’t sign up for the messages. People are far more likely to read their texts than they are to open campaign emails (which often end up in spam folders) or answer phone calls from unknown numbers. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 team pioneered campaign texting to recruit volunteers and promote events, and it’s quickly become a widespread practice for political campaigns.
But the president has turned his texting effort, which is central to his reelection plan, into a semi-legal grift of true Trumpian proportions. His campaign, which says...