Michigan Dem Under Fire From Homeless Shelter, FEC

Hillary Scholten / YouTube screenshot
October 29, 2020

A Michigan homeless shelter accused Democratic congressional candidate Hillary Scholten of misusing its image in campaign literature.

Mel Trotter Ministries issued a cease and desist order against Scholten's campaign in mid-October for using its name and logos in campaign advertisements, which the shelter said was creating "confusion" among its donors. A spokeswoman directed the Washington Free Beacon to the ministry's statement on politics, which says that "Mel Trotter Ministries does not endorse any political candidates or parties. We have not for 120 years and will not in the future."

"I cannot reiterate enough to you that this ministry has never, or will ever, endorse any political candidate—regardless of party," the shelter's president said in a letter to supporters. The president also said that the ministry had not given Scholten permission to use its name and logo in campaign advertisements.

In an advertisement highlighting Scholten's faith, the Democratic candidate touted her work at Mel Trotter Ministries and included an image of the shelter. "I also learned that faith isn't just for Sundays. Mine led to working at Mel Trotter Ministries," Scholten said in the video.

The campaign and ministry reportedly reached an agreement to include a disclaimer clarifying that the ministry is not endorsing Scholten. Her campaign website now includes a statement at the bottom reading, "Mention or description of any of Hillary Scholten's prior employment, including Mel Trotter Ministries or the United States Department of Justice, does not imply endorsement." The campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the ministry's cease and desist.

The controversy comes with just days to go until the election. Scholten is looking to flip a House seat vacated by retiring libertarian and frequent Trump critic Justin Amash but is facing trouble on multiple fronts.

Scholten's finances are under fire from her Republican opponent, Peter Meijer. Meijer's campaign filed an FEC complaint alleging that Scholten's campaign illegally accepted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from two fundraising committees that were not authorized by the Scholten campaign. Michigan 2020 donated more than $62,000 to Scholten's campaign while the Serve America Victory Fund sent around $12,500 to the campaign, according to FEC filings. Meijer's campaign is calling for a fine and the forfeiture of the donations.

Neither of the PACs responded to requests for comment, and Scholten's campaign also did not comment on the FEC complaint.

Scholten has received significant out-of-state support bolstering her effort to flip the seat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added her race to its Red to Blue program in late June, and more than two-thirds of her donations have come from outside of Michigan. The seat is a potential pick up for House Democrats in a hotly contested swing state, and President Trump won Scholten's district by double-digits in 2016. Current projections have the race too close to call with Meijer holding a slight edge.