In American politics, everything is about Donald Trump. Even the software.
If you’re a loyal Team Trump Republican making small-dollar donations to the party, chances are your credit card payment’s being handled by WinRed. Since its launch as an answer to the Democrats’ ActBlue platform, WinRed’s been a fundraising juggernaut for the GOP, bringing in nearly $130 million in the first quarter of 2020 alone.
But if you’re from the NeverTrump wing of the party, the payment processor Anedot has become the favored funding platform for anti-Trump efforts, like the Lincoln Project.
The Lincoln Project was founded by a group of Republicans pledged to President Trump’s defeat. Among the founders are longtime GOP consultants Steve Schmidt and John Weaver; former New Hampshire GOP chair Jennifer Horn; and D.C. attorney George Conway — husband of Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. The group recently made headlines when Trump launched an angry twitter tirade in response to one of their ads.
“They don’t know how to win, and their so-called Lincoln Project is a disgrace to Honest Abe,” Trump tweeted. “They’re all LOSERS, but Abe Lincoln, Republican, is all smiles!”
The tweetstorm may have soothed presidential feelings, but it also helped the Lincoln Project raise more than $2 million in less than a week, far more than they’d ever raised in such a short period. And the vehicle for those donations was Anedot.
Anedot was also the preferred fundraising processor for the failed presidential campaigns of Republicans Joe Walsh and Bill Weld, as well as Michigan Rep. Justin Amash’s short-lived Libertarian presidential bid.
Anedot CEO Paul Dietzel disagrees with the idea that Anedot is an anti-Trump platform: “Anedot is not an anti-Trump platform. Anedot is a software platform and does not actively seek any anti-Trump customers. Anedot has more Republican customers than all other platforms combined — nearly all of whom support the President.”
The Trump White House and the national GOP have been promoting WinRed as the preferred fundraising platform for its party’s candidates since its launch. Trump even tweeted about WinRed’s debut at the time.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced it would withhold support from candidates and state parties who didn’t agree to use the WinRed platform, part of an effort to help the software reach the critical mass ActBlue achieved among Democrats.
In the 2018 cycle, ActBlue helped Democrats raise more than $1 billion, and some Republicans believe it cost them congressional seats in the midterm. Trump and the RNC made a GOP version of the site one of their top priorities, and WinRed was born.
Around that same time, another small-donor platform appeared: Give.GOP, a site created by Dietzel. He argued the Republican Party was wrong to push candidates onto a single platform.
“Give.GOP empowers grassroots donors and has no competition in the market,” he told Politico at the time. “Nothing like it exists. Why are people who are supposed to be helping the president fighting so hard to prevent him from saving millions of dollars through innovation?”
The national GOP didn’t agree.
Give.GOP was denounced by the Republican State Leadership Committee as a “scheme” designed to trick donors into believing they were supporting the Republican Party.
Dietzel received cease-and-desist letters from the RNC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican Governors Association over using their names or logos on his site. Eventually, Republicans shut down Dietzel’s site by pulling the plug on his .GOP domain name.
Dietzel, a Republican who ran for Congress in Louisiana, continues to operate the Anedot fundraising platform he launched in 2010. He says Anedot is a nonpartisan platform and scoffs at the notion that there’s a competition between his software and WinRed, or that ideology is impacting candidates’ decision making.
“Anedot currently serves more than 1,500 Republican candidates and elected officials,” he told InsideSources, “and is the only privacy-focused payment processor built and owned by conservatives.”
Meanwhile, Republican fundraising through WinRed has exploded.
In April, the GOP raised nearly $60 million on the small-donor platform, its largest single-month fundraising haul ever. This helped the party extend its fundraising lead over Joe Biden and the Democrats, collecting $2 million more than their Democratic rivals and giving them $255 million in cash on hand.
Whatever platform Republicans use, however, they’ve still got a lot of work to do to catch up with their Democratic counterparts when it comes to online, small-dollar donations.
Democrats collected $141 million via ActBlue in April, more than twice as much as the GOP.