Bill Pulte has amassed hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers since July after he started offering cash sums and other giveaways to people in need who shared his posts online in the name of “Twitter Philanthropy.”
Some inner-conservative circles online have raised questions about the intentions of Pulte’s purportedly good-willed giveaway, which resembles something more akin to a digital marketing scheme than a typical philanthropic effort. What’s more, the giveaways aren’t all that they seem to be at first glance. Pulte has responded to multiple skeptics by blocking them from accessing his Twitter profile.
“These people are not giving away their own money,” MAGA Coalition’s Adam Gingrich said in a Periscope stream. “Of course he’s monetizing this whole thing and if he wants to prove me wrong then he will sue the MAGA Coalition and we will go to court.”
Right Wing Watch attempted to reach Pulte via Twitter direct message for this story but did not receive a response to our inquiry.
Pulte is the grandson of William Pulte, the billionaire who founded the American home building company Pulte Group, and the owner of the private equity firm Pulte Capital Partners. On July 10, Pulte pledged to donate $30,000 to a U.S. military veteran if President Donald Trump shared a post from his Twitter account; Trump indulged Pulte about three hours later.
THANK YOU BILL! https://t.co/ToNeu9OGuM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2019
On July 20, Pulte tweeted that he had followed through on his public promise, purchased a $20,000 car, and gave $10,000 cash to a veteran, which earned him the praise of the president again.
Thank you Bill. Very nice! https://t.co/hTnGiOh6T1
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2019
To promote his cash giveaways, Pulte has appeared on pro-Trump media shows, including those of Bill Mitchell and “Dilbert” comic strip creator Scott Adams.
Mitchell introduced Pulte in an interview about his Twitter giveaways on July 10, saying that Pulte was “a good friend of mine.” Pulte told Mitchell that the point of his project was to substitute traditional charitable spending in the U.S. with his model of “micro-targeting” those who need it most and giving them money directly. The next day, Pulte told Adams that he was impressed with the number of engagements he received on Twitter since he had been promoted by the president.
As time has passed, Pulte has grown more ambitious with his efforts. Pulte called for volunteers last month to help him expand his operation into an organ donation outfit and he has also vowed to give away $1,000,000 if he reaches 1,000,000 followers on the social media platform—a goal he’s rapidly approaching as of the time of this article. Pulte also appears to be distributing money to other conservative social media influencers, who in turn give it away to their own followers.
Pro-Trump media figures have heavily promoted Pulte’s online giving operation. In addition to Adams and Mitchell, the efforts and its corresponding hashtag have been praised and replicated by Donald Trump Jr., Turning Point USA founder and president Charlie Kirk, GOP mega-donor and former Wyoming gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, One America News Network correspondents Jack Posobiec, right-wing pillow king Mike Lindell, Students for Trump co-founder Ryan Fournier, pro-Trump teen CJ Pearson, pro-Trump personality Ali Alexander, and pastor Mark Burns.
But requirements for people to be eligible for the money and prizes Pulte offers include following Pulte on Twitter, sharing and engaging with his posts, sending him videos, and creating an account on Cash App, which is owned by Twitter. Pulte and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently worked together to clear abandoned and hazardous buildings from St. Louis via a charity they call the St. Louis Blight Authority.
Contestants are periodically asked to reply to Pulte’s posts with their own content, to send inquiries to an email address, and to turn on notifications for Pulte’s posts. By all appearances, the differences between Pulte’s efforts and a run-of-the-mill digital marketing strategy and email-list building exercise are slim.
On Pulte’s website, his “philanthropy” is presented legally as a type of sweepstakes contest, and the giveaways aren’t what they appear to be at first glance. For example, if someone is given a car from Pulte, as Pulte has offered online, the recipients must agree to “enter into a lease agreement with the dealership/company and adhere to all terms and conditions of that agreement.” In other words, winners are not given a car; they receive a leased car on which Pulte foots the bill for an agreed amount of time.
The appearance of a basic marketing data-collection operation running alongside Pulte’s efforts raises questions about his connections to the Trump administration and pro-Trump movement, especially as the U.S. gears up for the 2020 general election.
Pulte has been a semi-frequent guest at the White House during the Trump era; he visited the West Wing in March, May and July, according to posts on his Twitter profile. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is a frequent recipient of praise from Pulte, and in July Pulte uploaded a video of himself interviewing Carson.