If you were feeling philanthropic, where would you invest your cash? If you’re a thoughtful, well-adjusted person, your answer might be your local animal rescue, a food bank, a homeless shelter or a local kids program.
But if your charity of choice is “Donald Trump’s former-personal-attorney-turned-archnemesis” you may be one of the thousands of people who have lost their sanity and sense of irony to the mind-chipper of American politics circa 2018.
Michael Cohen’s “truth fund” has already raised north of $165,000 from thousands of donors on GoFundMe. The fund-raiser, which was started by his attorney (and former Clinton ally) Lanny Davis, claimed that Cohen had “declared his independence from Donald Trump and his commitment to tell the truth,” and that he needed financial help to pay for his legal fees. Davis, apparently, does not work pro bono.
The same people who likely hated Cohen’s guts six months ago when he was still Team Trump were more than willing to help him out as soon as he joined the Resistance. After all, it’s hard to imagine that any Trump supporters are donating to a man whose stated goal is “to tell the truth about Donald Trump” and who recently implicated the president in a federal crime.
Cohen’s absurdly successful GoFundMe came just a week after former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was fired over anti-Trump texts sent from his work phone, hosted his own fund-raiser on the same site and raked in almost a half a million dollars. A GoFundMe titled “Support for FBI Veteran Pete Strzok” garnered more than $460,000 from about 11,600 people in two weeks, $400,000 of that in the first three days.
Considering that there are thousands of more worthy and more needy causes (browse the other appeals on GoFundMe for yourself), the success of the two men’s campaigns raised some eyebrows. About 12 people donated $1,000 to Strzok. The highest donation was $10,000 — anonymously given. One person donated $50,000 (again, anonymously) to Cohen.
Those are not small sums. And, more likely than not, both men are going to be fine.
As a senior counterintelligence agent who was with the FBI for more than two decades, Strzok was almost certainly making six figures. The likelihood of this Georgetown graduate struggling to find work (as a commentator at the very least) after being in the national spotlight for six months is slim. And, if all else fails, he can follow in the footsteps of former FBI Director James Comey and go on a book tour.
Meanwhile, Cohen’s net worth is estimated to be around $20 million. Even if he takes a heavy financial hit from the legal fees and loss of work, that’s a lot of cushion.
Still, thousands of everyday Americans gave their money. In all likelihood, the reason is simple: The philanthropic funders agreed with Strzok and Cohen’s politics — specifically their opposition to President Trump.
Politics, like Girl Scouts selling Samoas, is a money-making machine. Those making money off your political beliefs, however, don’t have to follow through. They can promise a vague outcome — in Cohen’s case, “truth,” and cash in on that sweet, righteous anger.
For those who donate, it might not even be the outcome that matters. Donating itself is a form of protest — a big, old-fashioned middle finger to Trump. Many donations to Cohen were given in the name of Trump’s family and members of his administration: Melania Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to name a few.
Liberals aren’t the only ones susceptible to political grifters, to say the least. “Scam PACs,” or e-mail campaigns claiming to be devoted to fighting the GOP establishment or advocating for right-wing causes, have swindled tens of millions of dollars from grassroots conservatives. These PACs rake in money for consultants, and do little else. But an unsuspecting donor who hates Jeb Bush or Planned Parenthood might part with $5 or $10 to prove it, and never check up on where his money went.
Next time you’re feeling the urge to donate your hard-earned money to a former bureaucrat, a millionaire lawyer or scam PAC, maybe just give it to St. Jude’s or buy yourself some Thin Mints instead. At least the Girl Scouts will give you something for your money.
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