Millions of Tiny, Suspicious Political Donations Questioned by Watchdog Group


An 80-year-old Midwestern woman from an affluent suburban area made nearly 9,000 small donations totaling more than $330,000 to political causes and candidates in four years, according to federal election records.

She says she didn’t.

“That would not slip by me,” she told The Epoch Times. “If I was losing money, I’d know it. It wasn’t my money.”

“I am a frequent and generous giver. I estimate I contribute about 50 times per year. I know every penny I donate.”

Epoch Times Photo
More than 100 people gathered outside the office building of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in Phoenix in support of election integrity on Dec. 17, 2021. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

The woman was also surprised to learn that Federal Election Commission reports showed small donations appearing in her name after she stopped giving.

“There’s a hole somewhere that needs to be plugged and I’d like to see that done. I’d like to know if this is elder abuse,” she said.

Election Watch, a national election integrity watchdog group, is raising questions about more than 10,000 individual donors who are listed on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) database as having each contributed thousands of times in four years.

The data is raising eyebrows among investigators because surveys have shown that American political contributors donate far fewer times per year.

In the following examples taken directly from the FEC database, the donors’ identities will not be disclosed.

One of many examples cited by Election Watch is a 77-year-old Colorado woman referred to as “Donor A.” She contributed more than 59,000 times in separate donations totaling over $279,000 in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles.

Another contributor, Donor B, 74, a woman from Kansas, donated 65,489 times, giving over $223,000, over the same time period.

FEC’s Explanation

When asked by The Epoch Times about Donor C’s situation and the above comments, FEC spokesman Christian Hilland answered in an email, “I wouldn’t be able to speculate or comment on specific financial activity.

“However, duplicate contributions may appear in our database if they were earmarked through a conduit committee.

“The same contribution is reported by both the conduit committee and the recipient committee.

“It is the responsibility of a committee’s treasurer to monitor contributions to ensure that they comply with the legal limits and source prohibitions of federal campaign finance law and agency regulations.”

Christopher Gleason, an Election Watch computer analyst, responded to the FEC explanation, telling The Epoch Times, “We are not just seeing duplications. We are looking at thousands of transactions recorded in FEC reports showing individual donors making multiple small contributions dozens of times a day, week in and week out, to the same recipient.”

Repetitive Patterns

Another example from the Election Watch study is an individual referred to as Donor D.  The FEC database shows Donor D making more than 37,000 separate small contributions during the 2020 and 2022 election cycles, including a few in early 2023, totaling more than $139,000.

Most of those contributions went to a handful of political action committees in increments of three and five dollars each. The same PAC is listed as receiving 10 to 15 three and five-dollar donations in a single day from Donor D, day after day.

FEC records show that many of Donor D’s multiple daily contributions were made on consecutive days or there may be an interval of a few days in between. The pattern repeats itself again and again throughout the course of several years.

Effective ‘Fund-Raging’

Eighty-four years old and hard of hearing, Donor D told The Epoch Times that his donating 20 times a day is possible because “We have to get the GOP out!”

Donor D’s scenario may be a classic illustration of the internet fundraising phenomenon some pundits call “Fund-Raging.”

Fund-Raging is an online solicitation technique in which a single donor is emailed numerous politically or socially incendiary messages, followed by an urgent request for an immediate digital donation.

Donor D said of his online solicitors, “They love me.”

Donor D’s son told The Epoch Times in a phone interview, “I knew my dad was an active donor, but I had no idea it was that often and that much. He will click on anything.”

Multiple Versions of the Same Name 

The FEC database shows several instances of scores of donations being attributed to a name or address remarkably similar to Donor D’s personal information.

“When thousands of names are listed on official FEC records donating thousands of times per year that in itself raises questions. And so do the derivations that clearly stem from those original names,” said Gleason.

Derivations are other entirely separate contribution listings that appear with names and addresses that vary slightly from the main listing in spelling, the use of a middle initial, nickname, house number, street name spelling, or employer.

An individual contributor referred to as Donor E, 72, from Louisiana, is recorded by the FEC as donating 6,554 times in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles with contributions totaling $421,112.

Election Watch researchers discovered other contribution entries attributed to 24 different variations of Donor E’s personal identity information.

“The differences appear to be deliberate. These are not mistakes that are found and then corrected on next year’s report. They remain year after year.

“These permutations are recognized by the human eye as being slight variants of an original, but a computer reads and treats them as a completely different entry,” said Draza Smith, a licensed engineer and computer control specialist working on the Election Watch team.

“We are seeing the same pattern on the Florida voter registration rolls.”

Smith said she has not discovered any campaign contribution limit violations.

“Maybe name and address derivatives are a way of keeping donors under the limit?” she said.

Done by Computer?

Gleason said, “The frequency and sheer volume of the transactions over years makes me think the activity is not likely a little old man clicking his PC’s pay button 50,000 times.

“In my opinion, it is behaviorally impossible for thousands of Americans to each be making thousands of donations per year. It is so methodical and structured that it appears to be done by a computer program.

“The beauty of our study is it is based on the FEC’s own data. When I asked them for an explanation, I heard nothing. What can they say?”

Donors Profiled

Gleason said that he and the Election Watch team profiled hundreds of the most prolific donors around the country. The study found that most of them are “unemployed, elderly, white, flaming liberals that hate Trump,” and live in fairly affluent neighborhoods.

The five donors mentioned above come from areas with homes ranging in value from $240,000 to $800,000.

“They are good prospects for bad actors because these people may not be very computer-savvy or financially vigilant and already have an established record of making numerous online donations.”

Election Watch is encouraging individual donors and their family members to go to the FEC online database and check out their own listings. All listings are public information.

Digital Payments

“Some of the largest credit card processing services dealing with the collection and distribution of political contributions do not verify credit cards. And some charge a small fee per transaction,” said Election Watch investigator Peter Bernegger.

Two of the most successful of these organizations are ActBlue, a Democrat fundraising workhorse, and WinRed on the Republican side.

ActBlue did not respond to an email from The Epoch Times. WinRed could not be reached for comment.

Maryland attorney, CPA, and well-known election integrity crusader Walter Charlton told The Epoch Times he is hiring private investigators to contact his state’s most prolific and repetitive small donors to determine if their names are being used to make political contributions without their knowledge.


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