How Much Does Trump Pay People to Cheer at His Rallies?

The practice of hiring paid crowds — also known as “astroturfing” — is not new. The concept of there being popular support — or at least an illusion of it — at courts, theaters, games, funerals, and politics goes as far back as the Greeks and Romans. In fact, Nero paid a group to watch him sing — and applaud loudly, of course — in the theater.

Donald Trump was accused of breaking the law during his campaign by hiring paid actors to attend his rallies. Although the Federal Election Commission dismissed the charges, a lot of U.S. citizens haven’t. Read evidence that points to the fact that Trump really did hire actors to support him, and other interesting facts about the “tradition.”

1. It appears Trump really did hire people to come to rallies

Trump paid people to cheer him as he announced his candidacy at Trump Tower in June 2015. |  Christopher Gregory/Getty Images

Trump has been accused of using actors during his campaign since he announced he would run for president in June 2015. What’s worse is that he paid them a measly $50 apiece to come out and cheer, according to Business Insider. Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, denied the charges and in an interview with Business Insider said, “… It’s just not true, unequivocally. The Donald Trump campaign and Donald Trump did not pay anybody to attend his announcement.”

The American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint in 2015 with the Federal Election Commission, saying that Trump should have disclosed the fact that he paid people. And because he didn’t, he was breaking the rules regarding reporting provisions.

The commission closed the case, saying that the Trump campaign admitted it paid $12,000 to Gotham Government Relations on October 8. Gotham hired Extra Mile — a full-service event and incentive marketing company — with that money so it could “provide administrative support at Trump’s announcement.”

Next: It only gets worse for Trump.

2. Trump never actually paid his bill

donald trump meeting with the press at the white house

Trump stiffed his hired supporters. | Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

According to The Washington Post, Trump’s campaign never paid Gotham the $12,000 it was owed until a month after the FEC received a complaint. What makes that even worse is that during the four months that Trump wasn’t paying his bill, Gotham was actually “loaning money” to the campaign — which could be construed as a contribution.

Next: Trump is not alone.

3. Others have created the illusion of grassroots enthusiasm

Trump supporters Georgia

Trump supporters, or paid Trump supporters? | Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

According to The Atlantic, politically paid support can actually turn into genuine support. As the candidate gets more media coverage for his campaign — because he seems popular — voters might change their minds as they become more aware of him and get to know his policies better.

Many political candidates have been accused of astroturfing. For example, The Tea Party movement’s left-leaning adversaries accused it of using the practice when it was in its formative years. And George W. Bush faced the same accusation when a newspaper editor received letters of support from Bush’s own website.

Next: These actors were hired for jeers, not cheers.

4. Astroturfing at political protests

Ohio Statehouse

Unions have been hiring protestors for years. | Mike Munden/Getty Images

The New York Times reported in 2015 that a group of anti-gay marriage “protesters” at the NYC Pride Parade were fakes. The group turned out to be a bunch of hired day laborers.

Unions have been astroturfing for years. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters routinely pays people to walk in picket lines when local unions strike. Many of the hired hands are temporary workers and homeless people.

Next: Find out who does this kind of work.

5. Who do you call to fill a room?

Smiling people waving American flags and looking up in crowd

Real crowd or paid stand-ins? | Martin Barraud/Getty Images

It’s simple to arrange for a crowd at an event — Crowds on Demand, a company based in Los Angeles, can rent out a crowd for anything from a rally to a protest. Founded in 2012 by UCLA graduate Adam Swart, it’s one of the few of these types of companies. Crowds for Rent and Extra Mile Casting (the one Trump “inadvertently” hired) pretty much have the market to themselves.

Crowds on Demand can provide more than 1,000 people for an event, and its services don’t stop there. The company creates PR stunts like providing a 100-person flash mob for a corporate event and having fake paparazzi chase clients to generate some buzz.

Next: Here’s how much it costs.

6. Crowds don’t come cheap

Anthony Weiner is giving a thumbs up while holding a child.

Anthony Weiner paid crowds to help rehabilitate his image. It didn’t work. | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

According to the New York Post, Crowds on Demand received in excess of $50,000 from Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” campaign. Venture capitalist Draper wanted to split California into six separate states, but his ballot initiative failed. In addition, Anthony Weiner (of sexting scandal fame) paid the company’s actors $15 per hour to show up at events during his 2013 bid for mayor of New York City.

Next: International crowds for hire 

7. Rent a crowd across the pond — and farther

Heavy security at the royal wedding

The concept is spreading to Europe too. | Paul Hackett/AFP/Getty Images

It didn’t take long for the concept of crowd-for-hire companies to spread. Rentacrowd in the UK promises it can “Hire a Crowd for Anything” and that “No request is too out there.” And, according to The Wall Street Journal, a Ukrainian company called “Easy Work” has paid $4 per hour to student “protestors” to attend a wide range of political events.

Next: Trump wasn’t the only guilty one.

8. Hillary Clinton was accused of buying audience participation, too

Did Hillary Clinton hire paid protestors? | Scott Barbour/Getty Images

According to Forbes, Hillary Clinton was also accused of astroturfing. Rumor has it Clinton paid for “protesters” to go to Trump rallies and shake things up. In addition, Clinton was accused of hiring people to troll Bernie Sanders supporters online, write pro-Hillary comments, and convince the public that Sanders is out of touch with the modern world.

Read more: 10 Ways the Trumps Are Eating Through Your Tax Dollars

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