WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican National Committee is defending its right to use former President Donald Trump's name in fundraising appeals after he demanded they put an end to the practice.
In a Monday letter to Trump attorney Alex Cannon, RNC chief counsel J. Justin Riemer said the committee “has every right to refer to public figures as it engages in core, First Amendment-protected political speech" and said "it will continue to do so in pursuit of these common goals.”
But he maintained that Trump had also “reaffirmed” to the chair of the RNC, Ronna McDaniel, over the weekend "that he approves of the RNC’s current use of his name in fundraising and other materials, including for our upcoming donor retreat event at Palm Beach at which we look forward to him participating.”
Trump responded to the letter with a statement that put that agreement in doubt. “No more money for RINOS," or Republican in name only, he stated. “They do nothing but hurt the Republican Party and our great voting base — they will never lead us to Greatness.” He instead again urged his supporters to send their contributions directly to his own Save America PAC by using his personal website, adding, "We will bring it all back stronger than ever before!”
The flap reflects the tensions that have divided the GOP in the months since Trump left the White House. The party is eager to tap into his popularity among the Republican base to raise money ahead of next year's midterms. But that runs counter to Trump's instinct to control the use of his name and image as he aims to position himself as the undisputed leader of the GOP.
In his first major speech since leaving office, Trump urged his supporters to give their money to Save America, his political action committee, instead of the GOP's traditional fundraising organizations. And on Friday, his group sent letters to the RNC and others asking them to “immediately cease and desist the unauthorized use of President Donald J. Trump’s name, image, and/or likeness in all fundraising, persuasion, and/or issue speech," according to the RNC letter.
The House and Senate Republican campaign committees and a Trump spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The RNC and Trump's campaign worked hand-in-hand during the 2020 election, including raising money through a joint fundraising committee. And ties between them remain.
Trump is scheduled to speak at the RNC’s spring donor retreat in April in Palm Beach, Florida, and has told McDaniel that he wants to continue raising money for the RNC even as he amasses cash for his own pursuits. That includes exacting revenge by backing challengers to Republican incumbents who crossed him by voting to impeach him for inciting the Capitol riot.
Despite the letters, the RNC and others have continued to fundraise off of Trump's name.
“CONGRATULATIONS! You have been selected as one of the FIRST to be invited to claim your Trump Legacy Membership,” the RNC wrote in one appeal on Sunday.
“We NEED 10,000 patriots who still stand with President Trump before midnight tonight," “URGENT: TRUMP SUPPORTERS NEEDED,” added the National Republican Senatorial Committee Monday afternoon.