It even uses a recording of President's voice: "I'm Donald Trump. Tonight I'm asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border, out of love and devotion to our country." A deep-voiced narrator then comes on asking the listener to be one of the hundreds of thousands of patriots who helped President Trump finally build the wall by making a one-time urgently needed donation to the campaign.
Calls like this one, said to number more than 200,000, have helped raise more than $ 100,000 in January alone, but that money is not going to the Trump campaign, whose spokesperson told CNN they were not affiliated with the calls. Instead, the calls are coming from a political action committee that is not affiliated with Trump's re-election effort and has not spent any money so far in this or last election cycle, according to records from the Federal Election Commission
A CNN KFile investigation into the group behind the calls, Support American Leaders PAC, reveals it is run by 32-year-old Matthew Tunstall, who has a history of managing shadowy groups that target people with politically charged calls to raise money while doing little ̵
The operation effectively amounts to an income cycle of washing, rinse, repeat: paying for ads to raise money to pay for more ads to raise more money and so on, with Tunstall taking whatever money does not get used to pay for more ads.
Determining who was behind the calls was difficult. The recorded calls are from non-working numbers, do not identify the group responsible for them, or provide a callback number. And when KFile reached multiple call center operators working for the group, they provided the name of a PAC that does not exist
These practices appear to be in violation of the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission on disclosure and requiring advertisements disclosing the name of the organization making the calls
from CNN, Tunstall claimed the calls followed by the rules and said any calls beginning with "I'm Donald Trump" were the results of technical errors and that such calls were stopped following CNN's inquiry.
"This was a technical error if you heard this, there were many different variants that have recently been tested for different political ads regarding support for President Trump," Tunstall wrote CNN in an email. "I have been instructed by multiple legal sources that using politicians is acceptable and not considered to impersonate, because politicians are public officials and do not have the rights to their likeness like normal private citizens and celebrities do."
History of playing both sides
all of the money donated to both groups went to paying for the radio ad and calls that asked for more donations or to Tunstall and unspecified media consultants.
Despite past reporting, Tunstall does not seem to have changed his ways, but he claims his ads never meant to impersonate anyone and claims this time around he plans to spend the money to support candidates like President Trump
"Regarding Impersonation, Support American Leaders PAC has never intentionally intended to do anything other than comply with FEC regulations and support candidates like President Trump. "The American PAD Leadership Campaign is not the Trump campaign or affiliated with the Trump campaign," he added. and the widely used application to stop robocalls on cell phones and landlines, show the American Support PAC Leaders did not have any required disclosures on their calls.
An FEC spokesperson told KFile that they require a telephone call from a candidate's campaign or committee, "must include a clear disclaimer identifying the name of the committee that paid for the communication." "The FEC also prohibits the fundraising that misrepresents a federal candidate."
Despite this, Tunstall claimed his calls featured the required disclosure and said he made more than 200,000 calls
"I can not comment on how much of the record Nomorobo was able to record, but the name of the PAC and also the required phone number are at the end of the record per FEC regulations for political voice broadcasts, "he said. "200,000 calls were made with different message variants for the pre-launch test, and in the coming months, we plan to reach over five million voters combined between radio, television and telephone calls."
Professor Richard Hasen, and University of California, Irvine Professor of Law and Political Science, says that Tunstall may be open to criminal penalties if his actions were intentional
"Willful violations of federal campaign law may subject someone to criminal liability alongside civil penalties, "Hasen told CNN.
Tunstall and his PAC are not easy to find
Due to the lack of disclosure in the robocalls, the PAC could only be reached by being connected with an operator if you received a call and pressing a number when prompted.
Operators in call centers repeatedly told KFile in four calls that the group making the call was the Trump campaign. When pressed, operators said the money was going to Conservative Leaders PAC, and a non-existent PAC. KFile only discovered the real name of the organization by making a donation to the group with a prepaid debit card.
The transaction was charged as "Support Trump" through Rally, a payment processor used for fundraising solicitations. The Rally, which informs donors where their money goes when asked, told CNN the money went to the American PAC Support PAC – and the PAC registered with the FEC
Following an inquiry, Rally told CNN's KFile, the processor had suspended Suspicion of American Leaders PAC based on previous reports on Tunstall
Tunstall told CNN that call center operators were told to give the name of the correct PAC and that the error was
"The call center agents are trained to say that the contribution goes to helping the American Support PAC, re-elect President Trump and support his agenda, which is true," he said. "The initial test is still in the pre-stage where the call center agents are still getting used to the scripting. This was an error or something that is not on the script if you heard this. "
Tunstall declined to give CNN the name of his call centers when asked.
"Donor information is only required"
"Donor information is only required" for donations over $ 200, and we have been using our best efforts and are still using our efforts to collect the occupation and employer for these donors, "Tunstall told CNN when asked about the lack of individual donors listed. "'Support America' might be the payment processor descriptor, or a check by mail donation."