Iconoclastic artist and Yeezy designer Kanye West’s unlikely presidential run may be in the rearview, but the rapper’s troubles stemming from questionable campaign contributions and undelivered merch are just heating up.
The Gap collaborator has been fingered by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for a number of dubious campaign finance practices, including selling campaign memorabilia to minors and failing to deliver, the Daily Beast reported. The news emerged just as Gap’s earnings report, wherein CEO Sonia Syngal credited West for helping put the brand “back in a conversation at the zeitgeist of culture where it belongs,” surfaced late last week.
West’s campaign collected more than $2 million in individual contributions, FEC records indicate, bolstered by the candidate’s own $12 million investment in the ill-fated bid for the highest office in the land. The bulk of those donations were made by small-dollar donors in exchange for limited-edition gear, like T-shirts, hoodies and baseball caps bearing the slogans “Kanye 2020 Vision,” and “Vote Kanye,” which the candidate began teasing on Twitter in August.
Campaign finance laws prohibit knowingly soliciting donations from minors, and the Daily Beast, which contacted a number of Gen Z shoppers who purchased West’s commemorative streetwear, reported that many were under the age of 18. They had hopes of hawking the pricy duds (a baseball hat retailed for $60, while a hoodie sold for $160) on the secondary market, sometimes spending thousands to stock up.
What’s more, much of that product has yet to be delivered. A quick search on Reddit reveals a number of threads dedicated to the mystery of the missing merch, with dozens of comments posted after the election. On Nov. 9, a Redditor by the username of Clothspins bemoaned the “false promise” that a hoodie would ship within two weeks of purchase and the subsequent “scripted copy and paste” campaign response alleging that operatives were “working around the clock to fill all orders.”
The FEC’s report detailed that West did indeed spend $934,000 on producing the products, with about $16,000 going to a merchandise consulting firm and fit model. The remainder, spent on “campaign apparel,” went to former American Apparel chief Dov Charney’s manufacturing business, Los Angeles Apparel.
Charney’s factories were ordered to shut down “indefinitely” in late June after the L.A. County Department of Public Health (DPH) discovered “flagrant violations of mandatory public health infection control orders” that led to more than 300 cases of Covid over the summer and four employee deaths. At the time, Charney denied the DPH’s allegations, telling Sourcing Journal, “We’ve been doing everything we can in following protocols.” West’s campaign disbursed payment to the group on Nov. 3, and it is unknown when the garments were produced or if they shipped to shoppers. Charney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The FEC has directed West to remove merchandise and the option to donate from his still-active campaign site, the Daily Beast reported, and today, the Kanye2020.country site’s “donate” button links to a form that reads, “paused.” West may face an investigation into more than $100,000 in donations collected during the first few months of 2021.
There are no products currently for sale on the site, though a number of items are available on eBay at predictably inflated prices. However, a look at the marketplace’s completed listings reveals that most West campaign items are selling for less than their original retail price.