WASHINGTON ― The Republican National Committee on Monday told Donald Trump that it has every right under the First Amendment to continue mentioning him in fundraising missives, rejecting his demand last week to “cease and desist” from doing so.
“The RNC, of course, has every right to refer to public figures as it engages in core, First Amendment-protected political speech, and it will continue to do so in pursuit of these common goals,” General Counsel J. Justin Riemer wrote to the former president’s “Save America” political committee.
Trump on Friday had told the party to stop using his name or likeness in “all fundraising, persuasion, and/or issue speech,” which came just days after Trump, in his first public appearance since leaving office, told an audience of conservative activists that there was “only one way” to support good Republicans: by giving money to his Save America PAC.
One Trump adviser said Save America received “millions” based on that single request and predicted that Trump’s efforts would kill the GOP’s own small-donor program.
The Trump campaign and the RNC jointly built a list of more than 40 million supporters over the past five years, which includes several million donors who typically give $5 or $20 or $50 each month. Both have a right to use it.
Within days of losing the Nov. 3 election, Trump created the Save America PAC and then modified his existing joint fundraising agreement with the RNC to send 75 cents of every dollar raised to his PAC and 25 cents to the RNC. This arrangement continued through the Jan. 6 violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that Trump incited in his attempt to illegally remain in office. During those weeks, Trump collected about $76 million for Save America, which he can use for essentially any purpose, even to pay himself an eight-figure salary.
The RNC stopped small-dollar fundraising entirely after the insurrection attempt, then resumed solicitations that mentioned issues or RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, but then eventually started mentioning Trump again ― even though none of the money raised was going to Trump anymore.
On Sunday, for example, two days after Trump’s “cease and desist” letter, the RNC sent out an email inviting donors to become “Trump legacy members” for as little as $5.
“As a Trump Legacy Member, you will be a key player in our effort to DEFEND President Trump’s America First policies from Biden and the Radical Left,” the email said.
In his letter to Save America, Riemer wrote that Trump had “reaffirmed” in a weekend conversation with McDaniel that he was fine with the RNC’s use of his name. “The RNC has not sent any fundraising requests in President Trump’s name or used his image since before he left office, nor would it do so without his prior approval,” Riemer wrote, pointing out that Trump will be participating at an April retreat for the party’s largest donors in Palm Beach.
The Washington Post reported Monday that the RNC has agreed to host Trump’s speech at his Mar-a-Lago country club there and pay him for the dinner and the meeting space. The rest of the event will be at the nearby Four Seasons hotel.
From the time Trump became the GOP nominee through his four years in office, Trump’s campaign and the RNC combined spent $639,031 at Mar-a-Lago and $8.5 million in all at Trump’s businesses, as Trump insisted on directing donor money into his own pocket.