House Divided: Lincoln Project Pays Honest Abe Impersonator for Trademark

July 21, 2022

Things are finally looking up for the Lincoln Project—just not the one you’re thinking of.

The anti-Republican super PAC paid $25,000 last month to an Abraham Lincoln impersonator as part of a trademark dispute, according to campaign finance disclosures. Chris Small, who has operated a Lincoln-themed educational company called the Lincoln Project since 2003, filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in December 2020 to block the super PAC’s application for a trademark of the Lincoln Project name. Small, who gives historical renditions of Lincoln’s speeches, said the super PAC’s trademark theft created confusion for potential customers. He said he received threats from people who mistook his enterprise for the high-profile scam PAC.

The settlement with the Lincoln impersonator marks another embarrassing setback for the group of grifters, who are best known for impersonating Republicans. The Lincoln Project, funded heavily by liberal donors, was rocked by scandal last year after numerous young men accused cofounder John Weaver of making unwanted sexual advances.

The organization has also come under fire for paying millions of dollars to its founders’ consulting companies, with little electoral success to show for it. Some of the Lincoln Project’s founders have paid off IRS liens and mortgages with fortunes amassed from the super PAC. One cofounder, political consultant and prominent Twitter user Steve Schmidt, touted the organization as a vehicle for "generational wealth." He resigned, fittingly, on Honest Abe’s birthday last year after he authorized the release of fellow cofounder Jennifer Horn’s private Twitter messages as revenge for her criticizing the Lincoln Project’s handling of the Weaver affair.

The numerous scandals have taken a toll on the Lincoln Project’s bottom line, while tarnishing the legacy of one of the nation’s greatest Republican presidents. The group has quietly paid $550,000 to Horn since she quit the organization over the Weaver saga. The Lincoln Project has paid roughly $750,000 to the law firm S.R. Labby to mediate contractual disputes between the super PAC’s highly paid founders and advisers.

Formed in 2019 to oppose Donald Trump, The Lincoln Project has retooled itself more broadly as an anti-GOP group over the past year. It hired operatives to pose as white nationalists at a campaign event for Glenn Youngkin (R., Va.), who days later won the Virginia gubernatorial race. The group has shelled out millions of dollars to oppose Republicans like Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance.

The details of the Lincoln Project’s settlement with Small are unclear. Neither Small nor the super PAC responded to requests for comment. The Lincoln Project paid $62,810 to lawyers that worked on the trademark infringement case, according to campaign finance records.