North Dakota Governor and GOP presidential candidate Doug Burgum has launched a fundraising tactic offering $20 gift cards to donors who contribute as little as $1 to his campaign. The strategy aims to help Burgum reach the donor threshold required to qualify for the Republican National Committee’s upcoming debates. The campaign plans to distribute up to 50,000 gift cards, potentially costing Burgum $950,000 if all donors contribute only $1. With an estimated net worth of over $1 billion, Burgum can also self-finance his campaign.
While the campaign frames the gift cards as a form of altruism to assist those affected by rising inflation under the Biden administration, critics raise legal concerns. Some campaign finance lawyers argue that the tactic may be considered illegal because it could be seen as Burgum reimbursing donors using his own money, resembling straw donations.
However, others believe that campaigns have flexibility in spending money, including offering non-cash incentives to donors. Burgum’s campaign aims to secure a spot on the debate stage while avoiding additional advertising fees on platforms that they perceive as hostile to conservatives. Other lesser-known candidates have also employed creative fundraising approaches, such as giving away merchandise or sharing a percentage of total donations raised with supporters.
But Burgum isn’t the only GOP candidate implementing unusual fundraising strategies. Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign has introduced a program called the “Vivek Kitchen Cabinet.” The program doesn’t shell out as much money from the candidates pocket at Burgum’s plan does but there is still a reward for Ramaswamy supporters.
This initiative promises to pay participants 10 percent of any money they raise for his campaign, aiming to build up his grassroots donor base and qualify for upcoming debates. Supporters who pass a background check will receive an affiliate link to share and raise funds for the candidate.
The new fundraising concept aims to revolutionize political fundraising by challenging the dominance of professional political fundraisers who retain a percentage of the money raised. Participants in Ramaswamy’s program will be considered independent contractors and will receive monthly payments, with special incentives for top fundraisers such as personal calls from the candidate, event invitations, and exclusive campaign merchandise. The program will operate separately from the Republican fundraising platform WinRed, utilizing a platform called e-Donation.
Ramaswamy’s approach highlights the challenge faced by Republican candidates in attracting small-dollar donors, a sphere in which former President Donald Trump has been particularly successful. By engaging grassroots supporters and offering financial incentives, Ramaswamy aims to build a strong donor base and increase his chances of qualifying for future debates.