Reagan Foundation demands Trump and RNC stop raising money off his image: report

Reagan Foundation demands Trump and RNC stop raising money off his image: report
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

The legacy nonprofit of the 40th U.S. President, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, responded this week to a joint fundraising stunt from the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Donald Trump’s re-election campaign by squashing it, the Washington Post reported Saturday. The Foundation’s concern? The Trump campaign’s trading of trashy coin and photo sets featuring the Gipper and the Orange Menace for a little less than 50 bucks.


“It was simply handled with a phone call mid-last week to the RNC, and they agreed to stop,” Reagan Foundation chief marketing officer Melissa Giller told the Post of the latest cease-and-desist demand faced by the campaign to keep the country in the hands of a Velveeeta-hued despot and his wholly-unqualified children.

The latest, but not the first.

It’s no secret that Trump and his team have a history of using songs at rallies and events without permission, and then facing the wrath of musicians and their attorneys, who use colorful and big words, respectively, to insist that Trump never, ever do that again. Additionally, the call to stop using Reagan’s name and likeness on the gold “colored” coins and in fundraising emails comes nearly three months after Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, chastised the Republican Party—the entire party!—for invoking her daddy’s name when attempting to “justify” continued support of Trump.

This latest episode started with an email on July 19, according to the Post. The ridiculous fundraising email was crafted to seem like it came from DJT himself, but actually came from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a “joint venture” between the campaign to keep Trump in office and the RNC.

The solicitation offered, for a donation of $45 or more, a “limited edition” commemorative set featuring two gold-colored coins, one each with an image of Reagan and Trump. The coins were mounted with a 1987 photograph of Reagan and Trump shaking hands in a White House receiving line — the type of fleeting contact that presidents have with thousands of people a year.

It’s worth noting here that Trump himself uses the “fleeting contact” excuse to dodge any unsavory associations for which photographic evidence exists, most notoriously with Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas.

But back to the email.

“Friend,” the fundraising email purportedly from Trump said, “I just saw our new Trump-Reagan Commemorative Coin Sets and WOW, these coins are beautiful - I took one look and immediately knew that I wanted YOU to have a set. These aren’t any ordinary coins. They symbolize an important time in our Nation. This year, in addition to being re-elected as YOUR President, it also marks the 40th anniversary of our Nation’s 40th President, Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, we already sold out of the first batch we had in stock. But I liked these coins so much that I asked my team to rush order another batch for my TOP SUPPORTERS ONLY.”

It cautioned: “I’ve authorized a very limited production of these iconic coins, which is why I’m ONLY offering them to our top supporters, like YOU. This offer is NOT available to the general public, so please, do NOT share this email with anyone.”

Unfortunately for the campaign to keep the coronavirus great, someone on the mailing list DID share that email with someone, and the Reagan Foundation found out. “Within seconds,” as Giller described it, the leadership decided to shut it down. Though the RNC did agree to the Foundation’s demand, Giller notes that they’re still tracking down how many people saw the email and how many “top supporters” bought the non-legal tender and photo of Donnie’s Big Day with Ronnie. In fact, Giller adds, the Foundation is still deciding whether or not to involve attorneys.

This response was not expected by the campaign, and certainly not the RNC, whose comms director, Michael Ahrens, dashed off a pouty email to the Post. "Given that the Reagan Foundation just recently hosted the Trump family to raise money for its organization and has not objected to us using President Reagan’s likeness before, their objection came as a surprise. Even though we believe our use of the image was appropriate, we will stop emailing this fundraising solicitation as a courtesy,” he wrote in anything but a courteous manner.

As of this writing, though, the commemorative set, as gaudy and gold-plated as Trump himself, is still available through the campaign. Here’s a screenshot I took at 4:20pm PDT, which hasn’t changed at all from the Web Archive capture on July 18.

A campaign solicitation for the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign, featuring two gold-colored coins, one featuring Donald Trump

Trump, of course, loves to invoke Reagan, though he had no idea that the Gipper’s own 1980 racist campaign slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again,” preceded Trump’s MAGA-fication of the red-hatted GOP. When he was made aware that he didn’t originate the dogwhistle, Trump triumphantly sneered that Reagan hadn’t trademarked the phrase, while he had, even touting his knowledge of marketing.

Consistent with most of the one-term failure’s understanding of things, that “knowledge” only goes so far. The rights to all things Reagan—Ronald and Nancy—have belonged to the Reagan Foundation since the 1990s.

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