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Trump Chump Alert: Really, Avoid This PAC

By  |  August 29, 2016, 04:52pm  |  @stevengberman

If nothing else, Donald Trump inspires young entrepreneurs to do what he does. POLITICO reported on Ian Hawes, a 25-year-old huckster following in Trump’s gilded footsteps.

If you see an ad on Facebook promising “Dinner with Donald Trump,” you might want to avoid it.

In just its first three weeks of operation, Hawes’ PAC spent more than $108,000 on Facebook ads, offering an opportunity to win “Dinner with Donald Trump” — and netted itself nearly $350,000 in donations, according to federal records.

The biggest chunk of the money raised — $133,000 — went to a company that Hawes founded and owns, CartSoft LLC. The purpose of the payments is described on federal records as “media” and “media purchasing,” though CartSoft’s website describes itself as an online payment-processing platform.

Since its launch, the PAC has collected more than $1 million, Hawes told POLITICO. It has reportedly spent $0 on behalf of Trump.

The domain “dinnerwithtrump.org” takes you to a page with a picture of His Trumpness promising “a chance for you and a guest to have dinner with Donald Trump.” But the fine print reads:

4. Prizes. One (1) winner will receive the following prize (the “Prize”):

• Invitation to a campaign event for winner and one guest and other attendees, round-trip airline tickets for winner and winner’s guest from within the fifty U.S. States, DC, or Puerto Rico to the location of the campaign event; and one (1) night hotel accommodation for winner and winner’s guest.

Nothing in the prize description indicates that Trump will attend the dinner. It’s a fine line, but how many Trump supporters read the fine print? I’d guess “none.”

I think of the site as an homage. It’s a tribute to the money-raising abilities of its star attraction. And by contributing to dinnerwithtrump.org, you get exactly the same return on your money as you would by contributing to the real donaldjtrump.com. It’s a win-win.

But, for the sake of not being ripped off (by Hawes), avoid making a mistake that could make other Trumpkins laugh at you.

Hawes took advantage of a vacuum left by a skeletal Trump operation that had failed to activate supporters online and protect its digital turf; Hawes noted he bought Facebook ads and solicited money via email before Trump ever did, and created the dinner contest first.

He said Trump’s campaign has never contacted the PAC to request that it stop using his name, even though the campaign did so to the FEC last fall about some other groups. The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

“I applaud anyone that wants to dig into our financials, but they’re looking at the wrong political organization,” Hawes said.

Touché, Mr. Hawes. Well played.