A data breach at the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo has revealed the identities of law enforcement personnel who contributed to the legal defense fund for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old boy who opened fire amid the chaos of riots in Kenosha, Wisc., seemingly in self-defense. The Guardian contacted the employers of cops who dared to contribute to Rittenhouse, in what the founders of GiveSendGo suggested was an attempt to get the cops fired.
“A data breach at a Christian crowdfunding website has revealed that serving police officers and public officials have donated money to fundraisers for accused vigilante murderers, far-right activists, and fellow officers accused of shooting black Americans,” The Guardian‘s Jason Wilson reported. He noted that police occasionally used their official email addresses to contribute to crowdfunding campaigns.
Wilson framed Rittenhouse as an accused murderer, without mentioning the fact that even a New York Times analysis concluded he likely opened fire in self-defense. The report also noted that Wisconsin police officers donated to a fundraiser for Rusten Sheskey, the cop who shot the black man, Jacob Blake, who police say had been armed with a knife at the time.
The Guardian reporter also provided responses from some of the police departments that employ cops who contributed to Rittenhouse’s (completely legal) attempt to crowdfund his legal defense.
In an email, the Green Bay police chief, Andrew Smith, wrote of the donations that “we are looking into the matter”, but added on Sheskey’s actions that his department “does not take a position on other agencies use of force”.
Lynda Seaver, director of public affairs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, wrote in an email that Michael Crosley had made “an honest mistake” [in using his official email address to contribute to Rittenhouse’s campaign], and had “never intended to use his Lab email on this matter”.
All other agencies and individuals who were included in the Guardian’s reporting did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Heather Wilson and Jacob Wells, the co-founders of GiveSendGo, spoke to PJ Media on Friday. They admitted that the site’s integrity had been compromised but promised that they had set up protections to prevent another breach. They also warned against rushing to judgment when it comes to crowdfunding donations.
Wells explained that while GiveSendGo contributors can make donations anonymously, complete anonymity is impossible.
“By federal standards, you have to know who is sending money,” he told PJ Media. “When people give to a campaign on the site, they can choose to check anonymous, but that’s for the public-facing side of the site. They’re never really anonymous. We have to have access to see who gave, typically the email addresses.”
While The Guardian cited the transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets as the source for the leaked information, Wilson told PJ Media, “I don’t believe they’re the ones that orchestrated it.” She said some hackers likely breached part of GiveSendGo and sent the information on to Distributed Denial of Secrets.
“This looks to be a front-end walk-around that allowed people to access the giving information around campaigns,” Wells explained. “We’ve ramped up a bunch of different security measures to help prevent something like this from happening in the future.”
“They didn’t get into the database for any of the back end of the website. We closed the loophole and we also put a bunch of other protections,” Wells added. He said GiveSendGo has hired outside security audit firms “just to make sure that we’re not missing anything.”
While many activists have condemned GiveSendGo for hosting conservative crowdfunding campaigns, the company does not take a side on political issues. Wells explained that GiveSendGo will host legal crowdfunding campaigns from any side of the political spectrum, within limits.
“We’ve never taken sides. If you’re coming on and want to use a platform like ours to fundraise, if it’s for a legal activity and you make all the criteria, banking infrastructure rules, background checks, and you’re not derogatory in your campaign towards people,” you can use GiveSendGo to raise money, he explained.
“The Left doesn’t like that the Right side of the aisle now has a place to go to fundraise where before they were shut out,” Wells said.
When GiveSendGo first launched the anonymous feature, Wilson recalled, it wasn’t about protection. “They just didn’t want recognition for their gift,” she said.
“Now, we’re finding ourselves in a society where you can’t stand up for something you believe in without worrying about the push-back,” she explained. “People are now afraid unfortunately to put their names behind something they support, even good and legal things.”
“Whether you like the person or not, you have the right to do it and not lose your job over it,” Wilson argued.
“It’s being weaponized,” Wells lamented. He noted that the article mentions “contacting employers about an employee who gave.”
“The population is split, 50-50 on most of these issues, Left and Right,” he argued.
Wilson warned that attempts to silence people on the Right will likely worsen partisan tensions. “You poke a bear enough times, who knows that the outcome’s going to be?” she asked. “If things like this keep coming out where the Left does this, I don’t think it’s going to be too long before we see a rising up of a little more vocal right side.”
At GiveSendGo, “We’re not going to let one side or the other be silenced,” she pledged.
Wells warned that Big Tech’s actions to censor speech can become “more dangerous than the speech itself.”
He cited the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which notoriously brands mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups,” putting them on a map with the Ku Klux Klan. With this kind of labeling, “you actually stir up more hate than diffuse it … it just creates a more volatile environment,” Wells argued.
“We always shift the perspective to the hope that we have that’s beyond the material world,” he explained. GiveSendGo’s message of redemption “rests in the nature of who God is… it’s the calming agent in all this.”
“God is the great equalizer,” Wells argued. He claimed that God prevents people from becoming too self-righteous. “We all fall short of who He is.”
“As we move away from that concept of God in our society, we become more polarized,” he warned. When “the material is everything,” battles over politics become a zero-sum game.
GiveSendGo attempts to be “a calming agent for these situations.” The platform doesn’t just help people raise money, it also offers prayer for the people who launch crowdfunding campaigns on the site.
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The Guardian took GiveSendGo, which aims to be a tool for redemption and the calming of passions, and used its data to launch a witch hunt against police officers who dared to help Rittenhouse, Sheskey, and others defend themselves in a court of law.
Editor’s Note: The original version of this article characterized Jason Wilson’s article — and his reaching out to the police employers — as “an apparent attempt to get them [the police] fired.” The sentence has been amended to clarify that a GiveSendGo founder suggested Wilson’s action was an attempt to get the cops fired.