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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times

After raising more than $400,000 for the police officer who killed an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo., two donation pages were shut down without explanation over the weekend.

On the crowdsourced fundraising site GoFundMe, “Support Officer Darren Wilson” and “Support Officer Wilson” — two separate pages with similar names — raised $235,750 and $197,620, respectively, for the officer who shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

A similar page for Brown’s family, run by the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, had raised $316,194 as of Monday afternoon.

The shooting triggered unrest and protests against the overwhelmingly white police force in mostly black Ferguson. Local and federal investigations are seeking to determine whether Wilson wrongfully killed Brown, 18.

Both donation pages appear to have stopped accepting contributions around the same time on Saturday, and as of Monday afternoon, the pages’ organizers had not explained why. If a visitor attempts to donate, a message appears that says: “Donations are Complete! The organizer has stopped donations.”

A spokeswoman for GoFundMe said the website had not halted the donations.

“Each and every GoFundMe campaign organizer is able to decide for themselves when they would like to stop accepting donations,” said the statement from GoFundMe spokeswoman Kelsea Little. “Organizers may also choose to begin accepting donations again at a later date.”

The “Support Officer Wilson” page is run by a St. Louis police charity called “Shield of Hope,” which has been certified by GoFundMe as a valid donation recipient.

The three officers listed on Shield of Hope’s state nonprofit records are Joseph Eagan, Timothy Zoll and Jeffrey Roorda. Zoll is a public information officer for the Ferguson Police Department, Eagan is a city council member for nearby Florissant, and Roorda is a Democratic member of the Missouri House of Representatives who is running for state Senate.

Roorda, a former police officer, sponsored a bill in January that would keep officers’ names secret if they were involved in a shooting, unless they were criminally charged. That bill went nowhere.

Eagan, the president of Shield of Hope, said in an email Monday that he had been traveling and that all public responses would come from Roorda, the group’s vice president. Neither Roorda nor Zoll have responded to requests for comment.

Nor has the Los Angeles Times been able to reach the anonymous founder of the “Support Officer Darren Wilson” page, a user called “Stand Up,” who has not been officially certified as a verified recipient on the donation page. GoFundMe’s spokeswoman vouched for the anonymous donor in a statement to the Times, however.

In contrast to the other Wilson page and the donation page for Brown, little information has been given to donors about who is running the anonymous fundraising effort.

In a message to visitors two weeks ago, the anonymous Wilson fundraiser page wrote that it was working with Shield of Hope to become a verified recipient. That has not happened. The fundraiser also gave out a pseudonymous Gmail account to users seeking more information, but has not responded to a request for comment sent to that account.

In its statement, GoFundMe spokeswoman Little said the anonymously run donation page had also been removed from its search results, adding that “this campaign no longer meets GoFundMe’s stated requirement of having a valid Facebook account connected.”

GoFundMe’s security policies encourage users to “only contribute payments to GoFundMe users they personally know and trust. … Unfortunately there is no way to 100 percent guarantee that a user’s GoFundMe donation page contains accurate or truthful information.”

But Little said GoFundMe “has been in contact with the campaign organizer and has no reason to question their authenticity.”

A popular Facebook page that has been organizing pro-Wilson efforts, called “Support Officer Wilson,” told followers this weekend that lawyers were working on a solution as to why the GoFundMe fundraisers had been shut down, but provided no more information. (The Facebook page is also run anonymously, and those remarks could not be independently verified.)

After the Times published a version of this story on its website Sunday, users who posted financial questions about the fundraisers said their comments were being deleted from the Facebook page. The comments objecting to the deletions also were deleted.

Photo: David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT

Sen. David Perdue

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) pulled out of his final debate against Democrat Jon Ossoff on Thursday —because he'd rather attend a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The Nov. 1 Senate debate was planned months ago, but Perdue's campaign said he could not participate as promised because he has been too busy doing his job.

"Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia. For 8 of the last 14 days of this campaign, Senator Perdue went back to Washington to work for much needed COVID relief," his spokesperson John Burke said in a statement, referencing a failed attempt by Senate Republicans to pass Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) "skinny" $500 billion proposal.

"To make up for the lost time, Senator Perdue has over 20 campaign stops planned for the closing days of this race, and he is excited to welcome and join President Trump in Georgia before November 3rd to campaign for both of their re-election efforts," Burke added.

WSB-TV noted on Thursday that it offered Perdue's campaign other time slots to accommodate the Trump rally, but the overture was rebuffed.

Ossoff's campaign blasted Perdue's "cowardly withdrawal," saying in a statement that the move "says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he'll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis."

The incumbent's decision to break his promise to debate came one day after a video of Jon Ossoff criticizing Perdue's anti-Obamacare record at a Wednesday debate went viral. As of Friday morning, a 72-second clip of Ossoff has been viewed more than 12 million times.

Perdue responded to that attack by making the odd claim that he repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which would take insurance away from hundreds of thousands of his constituents — because he believed doing so would cover more people.

"I voted against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, because it was taking insurance away from millions of Georgians. Today almost 18 percent of Georgians don't have any health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act," he falsely claimed.

This is not the first time Perdue has put Trump ahead of the interests of Georgians. According to FiveThirtyEight, he has voted with Trump about 95 percent of the time, including backing his right-wing Supreme Court nominees, his tax cuts for large corporations and the very wealthy, and his repeated attempts to take money from military families to pay for a massive Southern border wall.

Medical experts and data analyses have suggested Trump's rallies have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus. Trump has refused to adhere to social distancing rules or to require mask usage at the events and the mass gatherings have frequently been immediately followed by case spikes in the communities where he holds them.

One poll this week found that voters across the country said they are less likely to vote for Trump because of his "large, in-person campaign rallies where wearing a mask is not required of attendees."

The race between Ossoff and Perdue is considered a "toss-up" by election experts, and polls show it as virtual tied.

If no candidate gets a majority on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face off in a January runoff.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.