The Give More Than Trump GoFundMe Will Actually Make America Great Again
Among the many things that Donald Trump has been accused of hiding by not releasing his tax returns is his charitable giving. Hillary Clinton accused Trump of not giving to charity in last week's presidential debate. In Tuesday night's vice presidential debate, Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, highlighted questions about the Trump Foundation's work and whether it's actually charitable.
There's good reason to be suspicious. David Fahrenthold at The Washington Post has spent months tracking down any evidence that Trump has personally donated any of his own money to his charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. After asking hundreds of charities if they ever received a donation from Trump, Fahrenthold reported that until he was shamed into donating $1 million to veterans this year, Trump had given away less than $10,000 of his own money in about seven years. Fahrenthold also reported that the Donald J. Trump Foundation wasn't legally allowed to act as a charity, and was ordered by New York's attorney general to cease raising funds.
This was a breaking point of sorts for Owen Ellickson, a comedy writer who has become one of the internet's most successful Trump satirists for his "Trump Leaks" series on Twitter, the subject of a recent New York Times article. On Tuesday, Ellickson decided to use his online success to begin his own charity campaign, one that would show just how ungenerous the self-professed billionaire is by raising more money than he has donated. Moreover, Ellickson decided he would raise money for the American Refugee Committee, deliberately rejecting Trump's rhetoric inspiring fear of refugees. "With refugees, I thought a) this is a worthwhile cause in and of itself, and b) it sort of felt like a single cause that contradicts so many of his offensive angles — his views towards women, towards Muslims, towards refugees, towards people of color," Ellickson tells Bustle. "It's sort of a rebuke to a lot of those."
The Vice Presidential debate also played into the timing, as well, along with the choice in charity. He wanted to highlight Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's own record on refugees. "Mike Pence, of course, took money to resettle Syrian refugees and then would not let them resettle in Indiana," Ellickson tells Bustle. Indeed, a court found Pence's refusal to accept refugees moving to Indiana to be illegal and discriminatory.
"I thought it would be useful to take his [Trump's] words and use them against him," Ellickson says. "[Trump] talks about how generous he is, and, you know, that's just insane."
It has been a day since Ellickson announced his GoFundMe on Twitter. And not only has "Give More Than Trump" succeeded at its goal of raising $10,000, it has raised six times more than Trump has reportedly donated in the past seven years. The GoFundMe has garnered over a thousand donations and a total exceeding $60,000 at the time of writing.
"It exceeded my wildest expectations for sure," Ellickson says. "I am shocked. I honestly thought there was an error, six minutes and it was already significantly close to the goal."
There's still a little more over a month left before the election. Trump will likely say more insane things, and Ellickson will tweet hilarious responses. And in that time, who knows how much more generous the internet will prove to be than Trump?
Additional reporting by Emily Shire.