Sen. Blumenthal plans action against telemarketing scams masquerading as political, charitable causes

Sen. Richard Blumenthal announces a bipartisan agreement on Turkey sanctions during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 17, 2019.

Erin Scott | Reuters

Sen. Richard Blumenthal is moving ahead with new legislative efforts to combat telemarketing scams that have raised millions of dollars while pretending to represent political and charitable causes.

Blumenthal announced on Monday a new oversight and legislative fight to take on those that use telemarketing calls, online scams and other schemes to effectively steal millions of dollars from donors. Contributors think they are donating to real causes, but they’re tricked into giving to fake organizations, with their leaders ending up keeping the money for themselves.

The Connecticut Democrat’s first step was to send letters to the chairs of the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Trade Commission as part of his larger inquiry.

“I am writing on the steps the Federal Election Commission and its partners are taking to crack down on fraudulent schemes that use political and charitable causes for private enrichment, and solicit necessary changes to the law to hold these scammers accountable,” Blumenthal wrote to Dara Lindenbaum, the chair of the FEC. He wrote a similar letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

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The move by Blumenthal on fundraising scams comes amid a growing number of cases of so-called “scam PACs,” which raise money for made-up political efforts. Those making the solicitations then keep the contributions for themselves.

Blumenthal was featured in HBO’s new docuseries “Telemarketers,” where he suggested Congress could focus on these types of schemes.

Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York charged two people in August with running such schemes. Two men were arrested last month for using telemarketing and other schemes to defraud donors while soliciting money for fake political action committees.

One of the men charged raised funds through four fake PACs, including a committee that had a title hinting it advocated for curing breast cancer. Those PACs alone raised more than $28 million, according to prosecutors.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that a group of conservative political operatives used “scam PACs” to raise $89 million, while the groups spent very little on actual operational activities.

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