Former President Donald Trump and his team are cracking down on politicians who use his name and likeness in fundraising solicitations in ways that imply they have a connection with him.
For example, an attorney for Save America, Trump's political action committee, in June threatened legal action against the campaign for Attorney General Mark Brnovich over the use of Trump's name in advertising for his campaign for the U.S. Senate, after Trump endorsed Brnovich's challenger, Blake Masters, reported The Washington Post on Monday.
In a cease-and-desist letter the Post obtained, Trump's lawyer pointed to one of the campaign's emails that warned potential donors that they would lose the chance of "continuing to receive our Trump polls, Trump rally alerts, and 2024 Endorsement opportunities" if they didn't donate to Brnovich.
"Your use of President Trump's name, image, and/or likeness is likely to deceive individuals into believing President Trump supports, endorses, or otherwise promotes your candidacy for U.S. Senate in Arizona — he does not," the attorney said in the letter.
Trump's attorneys and aides have sent several such letters in recent years, but the solicitations have continued. The former president, even a year-and-a-half after leaving office, continues to draw large amounts of money, but the data consultants behind the unaffiliated appeals have found that there is not much punishment for misleading donors into believing they are giving money to Trump himself, even when in the fine print the ads disclose where the contributions are going.
Brnovich's campaign, led by National Public Affairs, did not respond to a request for comment. National Public Affairs is a consulting firm founded by former Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien and former deputy campaign manager Justin Clark.
One of the tactics is to use a large photo of Trump, suggesting he will benefit from the donations, and includes phrases such as "Red Wave Supporter Status: Unlocked," such as that used in a recent appeal by the Republican State Leadership Committee which works to elect state legislators, and by ads from Republican state parties in places such as Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking reelection and while supporters are calling for a 2024 campaign against Trump.
But one of the party's digital fundraising consultants said it is "one of the massive conundrums for the Republican Party" determining how to raise funds without adding a message about Trump.
Meanwhile, small-dollar donations to the Republican Party are dropping, which strategists say is happening because of the economy and because of the constant appeals for money, according to people familiar with the matter.
But one Trump fundraising adviser insisted that "we're not at war" with Republicans using the former president's name and likeness.
"We want to play ball because we are all in the same party on the same mission, but we don't want to be taken advantage of," one adviser said.
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