Ian Hawes is not affiliated with the political campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but his American Horizons PAC has raised almost $350,000 from its "Dinner with Donald Trump" contest, which is not an intimate meal with Trump.
The fine print on Hawes' DinnerWithTrump.org website says: "Dinner for winner and one guest at a Sponsor-selected fundraising evening event held with Donald Trump and other attendees."
Hawes' political action committee spent more than $108,000 on Facebook ads for the contest, which has brought in more than 20,000 donors, notes Politico.
People can enter the contest without donating, but Hawes' site reportedly offers users a way to "double your chances" with a donation, even though the gray-on-black fine print states: "No purchase, payment, or contribution necessary to enter or win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning."
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Federal records reportedly show $133,000 of the $350,000 dinner contest went to CartSoft LLC, a company owned by the 25-year-old Hawes.
Records show the money is paying for "media" and "media purchasing," but Politico reports that the CartSoft’s website says it is an online payment-processing platform.
Politico contacted dozens of people who gave to the dinner contest, and they all thought they had donated to the Trump campaign, not to American Horizons PAC.
"I would say, unfortunately, that’s simply a matter of pure chance," Hawes responded.
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Jared Peavler, a donor from Indiana, posted screenshots of his complaint correspondence to American Horizons PAC on Facebook, which included this alleged email response signed by Hawes: "Monetary contributions don’t increase your chance of winning, but we do multiply your entries. We’re also a political action committee, so it’s our job to collect contributions. So you can eat your own s---."
Hawes did not recall sending that email, and told Politico: "That’s not something we would say. Pissing people off is not something that we’re trying to do."
In response to people who are complaining about the contest, Hawes said: "We’ll be happy to return your donations right away."
So far, 110 refunds have been processed, according to Hawes, and can be requested via email at [email protected].
Hawes' American Horizons PAC is also running another website, CrookedHillary2016.org, that states: "Help Us Stop Crooked Hillary. We're raising $1 million dollars from small donors to fight Crooked Hillary's campaign of lies."
It's not clear how the website plans to achieve this goal, but its hard-to-read fine print states: "Your contribution will support our independent federal election efforts undertaken without coordination with any candidates or political parties."
Hawes told Politico that American Horizons PAC has received a total of $1.1 million total from 21,253 donors.
"We use the money that we collect in a way that we feel best creates value for the people who have donated to us," Hawes added.
The news site notes that Hawes posted pictures of himself on his personal Facebook page drinking champagne with his fiancee in August "on the bow of the yacht overlooking Miami."
"Couldn't be more perfect!" Hawes wrote.