The Daily Wire has learned Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is launching an investigation into GoFundMe after it shut down a nearly $10 million fundraiser for Canadian truckers protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Knudsen wrote to GoFundMe on Thursday announcing his probe into whether the company violated Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act. The statute safeguards residents from grievances.
“This is something that very likely had Montana donors participating, given Alberta literally shares a border with us,” the attorney general told The Daily Wire. “We have a lot of citizens in Montana who are either dual-citizens or do business on both sides of the border. For GoFundMe to just step in and say ‘Oh, well we don’t like this, we’re going to seize this money and put it towards something else,’ that certainly raises suspicions.”
GoFundMe, a popular crowdfunding platform, froze a campaign for the Canadian “Freedom Convoy” in early February. The platform said it would redistribute the funds, then said donors should request refunds, then quickly reversed course and said it would refund donations automatically. Knudsen seeks to know why the company had decided to appropriate funds from donors, as well as of any past instances of it doing so — since GoFundMe was going to donate the money to a group verified by the site.
GiveSendGo, another platform, took over as the fundraising medium for the convoy after GoFundMe’s decision. Over the weekend, GiveSendGo’s website became compromised due to hackers who posted a list of more than 90,000 donors. “We are in a battle,” the company said in a statement, announcing it is back online. “We didn’t expect it to be easy.”
In addition, Knudsen is probing why GoFundMe determined that the Freedom Convoy violated its terms of service — specifically number 8. The guideline bars “hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, serious disabilities or diseases.”
“Nothing that I have seen personally suggests that this was in any way a violent or hateful group,” Knudsen also told The Daily Wire. “I’m looking out for Montana consumers.”
As a technical matter, the Montana attorney general wants to know how GoFundMe “identified participants” in Ottawa who were protesting and how they received funds back. He is investigating how the platform would have identified “credible and established charities” after it initially said donors would not receive their money automatically.
Several chief legal officials in red states have signaled intent to probe GoFundMe. This includes Florida’s Ashley Moody, Louisiana’s Jeff Landry, West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, Ken Paxton of Texas, and others. Last week, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz demanded the Federal Trade Commission investigate the platform.
Knudsen mentions GoFundMe’s decision to permit fundraisers in connection with 2020 riots in Portland and Seattle, in his letter, asking “whether GoFundMe had discussions with law enforcement regarding whether those protests included violations of law or support of violence or harassment, and how GoFundMe reached the decision to allow these fundraisers to remain on its website.” The website notably did not block initiatives to bail out rioters.
“It certainly smells fishy,” Knudsen said. “It certainly looks like they’re picking winners and losers. From a trade practices standpoint, I think that’s unfair. It would be a violation of those statutes. We sent this letter asking for clarification and some more data. Hopefully, they can give us some.”
Protestors in Canada have continued to occupy the streets. Truckers are receiving police notices to stop or face arrest, and there are an estimated 360 vehicles blockading Ottawa’s downtown area, according to the Associated Press. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergency Powers Act this week, which has never been used.
View the full letter from Knudsen here.
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