TEXAS (KXAN) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Wednesday the state would investigate donation platform GoFundMe after the company removed a fundraiser benefitting Canadian truckers protesting vaccine mandates.
Since late January, a self-described “freedom convoy” of Canadian truckers has gathered in Ottawa to protest vaccine requirements for cross-border truckers, which has since grown in size and expanded to include protests against other pandemic-related protocols.
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said protestors have used big rigs and vehicles to block major roadways in Ottawa, with the department launching 60 criminal investigations and issuing hundreds of tickets, per the Washington Post. The city later announced a state of emergency on Sunday.
A nearly multimillion-dollar GoFundMe fundraiser was removed from the platform late last week due to “evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation,” GoFundMe officials said.
“GoFundMe supports peaceful protests and we believe that was the intention of the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser when it was first created,” officials wrote. “We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”
Company officials added all contributors to the fundraiser would automatically receive a refund within seven to 10 business days.
On Wednesday, Paxton announced the state would investigate the company on the basis of potential violations made against the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. In a release, Paxton said the fundraiser’s removal raises questions on the platform’s “integrity.”
“GoFundMe’s response to an anti-mandate, pro-liberty movement should ring alarm bells to anyone using the donation platform and, more broadly, any American wanting to protect their constitutional rights,” Paxton said in the release. “Many Texans donated to this worthy cause. I am acting to protect Texas consumers so that they know where their hard-earned money is going, rather than allowing GoFundMe to divert money to another cause without the consent of Texas citizens. I will get to the bottom of this deceitful action.”
Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas as Austin, said he didn’t view this as a serious investigation, but rather an example of Paxton using his office to exert his stance on vaccine and mask mandates.
“To be honest, I don’t think this is a terribly serious investigation,” he said. “I imagine that again, this is an effort for Ken Paxton to remind Republican primary voters that he is fighting mask and vaccine mandates wherever he finds them.”
Paxton is gearing up for the Republican primary election in a race that includes Rep. Louie Gohmert, a stance conservative whose race for the AG’s office outlines plans to “save Texas and restore honesty and integrity to the office of Attorney General.”
“By the attorney general using the power of his office to show not only that he’s trying to address this issue here in Texas, but beyond the border and in the country as a whole, if anything it’s just a benefit in his attempts to fend off the challenge that Gohmert is posing among, again, the most conservative primary voters.”
KXAN has reached out to Paxton’s office for further comment on this investigation. We’ll update this story once a response is received.