'Registered Genius' Says He's Made $1.1M Off Trump Fans

Donors are furious at PAC's apparent fundraising scheme
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2016 10:40 AM CDT
'Registered Genius' Says He's Made $1.1M Off Trump Fans
Meet Ian Hawes, fundraiser extraordinaire.   (Twitter)

More than $1 million has been raised in the name of Donald Trump by a PAC—but zero dollars appear to have gone to help the GOP nominee, and donors are furious with the "registered genius" and "grape soda connoisseur" behind the setup, Politico reports. Ian Hawes is the 25-year-old behind dinnerwithtrump.org, a site not affiliated with Trump's campaign and that offers an exciting opportunity, if you're a Trump fan: a chance to win tickets to a Trump "fundraising event," complete with flight and hotel stay. That contest site, in addition to other fundraising efforts Hawes has made—including nearly $110,000 in Facebook ads, per federal records—has so far brought in $1.1 million from more than 21,000 donors, Hawes says. The issue: Donors say they thought this fundraising effort was part of Trump's campaign, though the fine print on the site notes it's simply giving away two tickets to a "Sponsor-selected fundraising evening event" with Trump in attendance.

"I feel ripped off and taken advantage of. … This is robbery," says one donor who ponied up $256 to Hawes' American Horizons PAC, thinking she was donating directly to Trump's camp. Hawes denies he's pulling one over on anyone, noting that interested parties can enter the dinner contest without donating—though Politico notes a "double your chances" promotion is offered via multiple entries if someone contributes—and that the PAC will refund donations to anyone who asks for one. Plus, he adds, Trump's campaign has never told him to cease and desist using Trump's name. The "dinner with the Donald" site isn't Hawes' only moneymaker scheme: He's also launched crookedhillary2016.org—"to fight Crooked Hillary's campaign of lies"—and has registered imwithtrump.org, though that's not live yet. (The real Trump was closing the fundraising gap with Clinton earlier this month.)

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