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Stripe Stops Processing Payments For Trump Campaign Website

Financial-technology company’s move follows last week’s riot at the Capitol. Stripe Stops Processing Payments For Trump Campaign Website

Stripe Inc. will no longer process payments for President Trump’s campaign website following last week’s riot at the Capitol, according to people familiar with the matter.

The financial-technology company handles card payments for millions of online businesses and e-commerce platforms, including Mr. Trump’s campaign website and online fundraising apparatus. Stripe is cutting off the president’s campaign account for violating its policies against encouraging violence, the people said.

Spokespeople for the Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stripe asks users to agree that they won’t accept payments for “high risk” activities, including for any business or organization that “engages in, encourages, promotes or celebrates unlawful violence or physical harm to persons or property,” according to its website.

The company has previously disabled accounts in the wake of violent acts. After a gunman killed 11 people in an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, Stripe cut off—the right-wing social-media platform where the alleged shooter posted anti-Semitic messages.

A number of companies have cut ties with Mr. Trump’s since Wednesday’s attack, which left five people dead. Twitter Inc.  on Friday banned Mr. Trump’s personal account from its platform, citing a risk of further incitement of violence, while Canadian e-commerce company Shopify Inc. took stores run by Mr. Trump’s business and campaign offline.

Some political-action committees are also halting donations to Republican lawmakers who objected to President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win after supporters of Mr. Trump stormed the Capitol.

After the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign launched a fundraising blitz to raise money for legal battles challenging Mr. Biden’s victory in several states. The effort brought in hundreds of millions of dollars for Mr. Trump’s political committees and the Republican party.

Updated: 1-14-2021

Stripe Bans Trump, But Donations Still Come Through

Visitors to the president’s campaign website are directed to WinRed, a Stripe customer, to make donations.

Stripe Inc. has stopped processing payments for President Trump’s fundraising apparatus. Directly, that is.

The financial-technology company continues to process payments for intermediaries that route donations to Mr. Trump, after cutting off his campaign for violating its policies against encouraging violence.

Visitors to the Trump campaign website who click on a button to contribute are directed to a webpage hosted by WinRed, the small-dollar fundraising platform for Republican candidates and political-action committees.

WinRed is a Stripe customer, and Stripe processes payments submitted over WinRed via that link, according to a review of its source code and people familiar with the matter.

The WinRed-hosted webpage tells visitors that donations go to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee composed of the Trump campaign, Mr. Trump’s Save America political-action committee and the Republican National Committee.

A Stripe spokesman declined to comment. Representatives for Mr. Trump’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Stripe’s decision to stop directly processing payments for Mr. Trump’s campaign website following last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol was something of an about-face. The San Francisco-based company, one of Silicon Valley’s most valuable startups, previously resisted calls from some employees to more forcefully police Mr. Trump’s use of its money-movement platform.

At a companywide meeting last October, Stripe Chief Executive Patrick Collison told employees that Stripe’s view is that elections and courts, not Stripe, are and should be the arbiters of democratic legitimacy, according to a recording of the meeting reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“With regard to our role as an infrastructure player, I think it’d be a real mistake for us to seek to supersede those more deeply rooted democratic mechanisms,” Mr. Collison said.

The violence at the Capitol last week—and Mr. Trump’s perceived role in stoking it—marked a turning point for Stripe, some of the people said. Limiting its ban to the Trump campaign’s account and not intermediaries that work with it demonstrates the tightrope tech companies have to walk when it comes to political speech.

The debate over how actively Silicon Valley should be regulating the content and activities of its users for years centered on social-media companies and consumer-facing platforms. More recently, it has spread to back-end service providers—firms like payments processors, domain registrars and web-hosting firms that aren’t viewed as having any editorial responsibility.

While many of the companies that handle the plumbing of the internet aren’t household names, the services they provide are indispensable. Parler, an alternative social network that served as a hub for organizers and supporters of the Capitol riot, is struggling for survival after Inc. kicked it off the internet giant’s cloud servers and Twilio Inc. and Okta Inc. blocked it from using their enterprise-software tools.

Stripe long made it a point to stay neutral with respect to the politicians who use its software to accept online donations. The company processed payments for both the Clinton and Trump campaigns in 2016.

While some Democrat politicians and groups used Stripe’s services, Republicans dominated the list of its largest political customers in the 2020 election season. Stripe earned $3.2 million in fees from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and $1.9 million from Donald J. Trump for President, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Its top customer on the other side of the aisle was the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which paid Stripe about $800,000.

As a private company, Stripe doesn’t regularly disclose figures on its revenue or payment volume. In September, the company said it counted more than 40 customers that each did more than $1 billion in payment volume annually. In comparison, for the 2020 election cycle, WinRed took in $2 billion in online donations for Republicans, according to Federal Election Commission data through Nov. 23.

On its website, Stripe touted a commercial partnership with Revv LLC, a fundraising platform that had “one million one-click donors that can donate across any organization using the platform seamlessly.” Revv’s founder is Gerrit Lansing, who has also served as the chief digital officer of the Republican National Committee and a brief stint in the Trump White House.

WinRed, the GOP donation portal, was built on top of Revv, and Mr. Lansing currently serves as WinRed’s president.

Stripe’s relationship with Mr. Trump and right-wing political figures and causes has rankled some staffers, according to people familiar with the matter. Advocacy groups also criticized Stripe for its business ties to hate groups in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack in 2018 and other violent episodes.

Stripe executives took action against a number of groups in the wake of such attacks but rebuffed calls to invoke its violence and extremism policy when it came to the president. Stripe asks users to agree that they won’t accept payments for high-risk activities, including for any business or organization that “engages in, encourages, promotes or celebrates unlawful violence or physical harm to persons or property,” according to its website.

During the October all-hands meeting, Stripe President John Collison, the younger brother of Stripe’s CEO, told employees that, in the past, lawmakers had questioned Stripe’s decision to cut ties with “super-fringe, far-right entities.” Doing the same to Mr. Trump, he said, would invite a much greater degree of scrutiny.

“You can imagine what an own-goal it would be to say we are effectively cleaving the country in two in terms of our preferences,” Mr. Collison said.

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