Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
This week, the Trump campaign has been heavily promoting a contest to win a "VIP Dinner" with Trump in Southhampton, New York, on August 8th. Advertisements on Facebook touted the dinner as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to share a meal with Trump. The campaign solicited donations from Facebook users for a chance to win.
According to Facebook data, The Trump campaign spent between $79,000 and $100,000 on Facebook ads promoting the contest between August 3 and August 4. (Facebook provides ad spending data in ranges). The ad was shown to Facebook users at least 4.5 million times.
According to the contest's official rules, the winner was selected on Wednesday and will be notified on Thursday. The event is on Friday. The timeline means that it is impossible for residents of 34 states to legally attend the dinner because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
On June 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 205, which requires people traveling to New York State from states with a high positive test rate to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
All travelers entering New York from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10% test positivity rate, over a seven day rolling average, will be required to quarantine for a period of 14 days consistent with Department of Health regulations for quarantine.
Those who violate the order can be fined up to $10,000. Guidance from the New York Department of Health says, to comply with the order, an "individual must not be in public or otherwise leave the quarters that they have identified as suitable for their quarantine."
The executive order currently requires travelers from the following states to quarantine upon arrival: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Yet, according to Facebook data, the Trump campaign marketed the contest extensively to residents of those states. In one heavily promoted version of the ad, 73% of the impressions were targeted at users in states subject to New York's quarantine order.
There is no legal way for Trump supporters in any of those states to attend the event.
The fine print of the contest rules appears to anticipate this outcome, and says the campaign is allowed "to suspend or cancel the Promotion or any entrant's participation in the Promotion should viruses, bugs, unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond Sponsor's control affect the administration, security or proper play of the Promotion."
But that hasn't stopped the Trump campaign from using the contest to induce supporters in those states to donate money. And it is not the first time the Trump campaign has used a fraudulent contest to scam its supporters.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The New York City breakfast scam
Last September, Popular Information revealed that a heavily advertised contest to have breakfast with Trump in New York City was a fraud. The purported winner of the contest, Joanna Kamis, did not have breakfast with Trump. Instead, she was invited to a breakfast at a New York City restaurant that Trump did not attend. She was later given the opportunity to take a photo with Trump.
The contest was advertised extensively on Facebook with messages like, "This is your LAST CHANCE to meet me this quarter, and I really want to discuss our Campaign Strategy for the rest of the year with you over breakfast."
The revelation came two days after Popular Information reported that the Trump campaign had held 15 contests to win meals with Trump, and there was no evidence anyone had ever won. Kamis' story was leaked to The Daily Caller, a friendly right-wing outlet, as proof that people won the contests. In other words, the story of a woman who never got the prize she was promised was the best evidence the Trump campaign could produce that the contests were legitimate. The Daily Caller story was promoted repeatedly by top members of the Trump campaign's communication team.
The Daily Caller story also included "winners" who were promised the opportunity to meet Trump at a rally. These contests were not part of Popular Information's investigation.
The chain of events raises serious questions about whether anyone had ever actually won a meal with Trump. Thus far, the Trump campaign has held 21 contests for meals with Trump. While other campaigns enthusiastically promote photos of candidates dining with low-dollar donors, there is no evidence any contest winner had a meal with Trump.
From June until August, the Trump campaign also promoted a contest to meet Trump at the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida. That event has now been canceled.
The Trump campaign is legally required to disclose contest winners
The law in Texas, Maryland, Tennessee, and other states requires the Trump campaign to disclose the contest winners upon request. The Trump campaign includes instructions on how to obtain the names of the winners in their official rules.
REQUESTING RULES, NAME OF WINNER, OR DESCRIPTION OF PRIZE: To receive a written copy of the Promotion rules, the name of the Promotion winner, or a description of the Prize, please send your request and a self-addressed and stamped return envelope to Trump Make America Great Again Committee, 138 Conant Street, 2nd Floor, Beverly, MA 01915.
Popular Information sent a request for the names of the winners of all the contests and never received a response. Reporters from the New York Times and elsewhere have also sent requests and have been ignored.
The Trump 100
Would the Trump campaign really repeatedly scam its own supporters for political contributions? It appears so.
The campaign has, for example, repeatedly run advertisements on Facebook telling people they were one of 100 people selected to join a special club. "My father selected 100 Patriots out of the entire nation to join the Trump 100 club, and you are one of them. I'm a member. My brother Eric is a member. We're only missing you," Donald Trump Jr. said in a recent video ad:
The ad was shown to millions of Facebook users.
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