Some may recall the Trump campaign's singing/dancing 'Freedom Kids' from earlier this year. Now it looks as though the group's organizer will be suing the campaign after its violation of their verbal agreement and repeated failure to properly compensate the performance group.
Guest Post by Mike Masnick on Techdirt
Remember the little girls singing a song for Trump called the USA Freedom Kids? We wrote about it earlier this year after the performance was taken down due to a copyright dispute (of course). The video of the song went viral for a week or two and then died out:
Now, the Washington Post is reporting that the group is preparing to sue the Trump campaign and are no longer sure they support him as a Presidential candidate. The details are a little confusing and no actual lawsuit has been filed, so perhaps take this with a large grain of salt. Jeff Popick, who wrote the song, and is the father of the little girl in front, is claiming that the campaign violated the agreement it had with the group. Except, it wasn't a written agreement, just a verbal one:
"This is not a billion-dollar lawsuit," Popick said. "I'm doing this because I think they have to do the right thing. And if this means having to go through the court system to enforce them doing the right thing, then that's what I have to do. I'm not looking to do battle with the Trump campaign, but I have to show my girls that this is the right thing."
Now, to be clear, a verbal agreement is just as binding under the law as a written down contract, but it's still a lot harder to enforce, because you can't point back to the actual wording of the agreement and people can obviously dispute what was actually agreed upon. In this case, the handshake agreement itself seems fairly fuzzy -- and seems to involve Popick arguing that because the campaign changed its mind on a Freedom Kids performance, it now owes them... something, including a potential performance at the RNC convention (which obviously did not happen):
When Popick first reached out to the Trump campaign about performing, he spoke with various people including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. His understanding from the campaign was that the Kids would make two appearances in Florida, where Popick lives. The first event didn't come to fruition, and Popick says he asked for $2,500 in payment for the second performance, in Pensacola. The campaign made a counter-offer: How about a table where the group could presell albums? Popick took the deal.
When they arrived at the venue, though, there was no table, Popick says. The result was "complete chaos," he said. "They clearly had made no provisions for that."
The campaign offered another performance, and Popick and the girls flew to that event, but upon landing were told that plans had changed.
It wasn't to be. When the plane landed, Popick had a message from the campaign staffer indicating that there was a change of plan. The campaign invited the performers to attend the rally, which they did, in their outfits. The campaign asked Popick not to talk to the media, he says, but then gave them seats within arm's length of the press. "They just were constantly coming over, wanting pictures," Popick said of the news media. "They wanted to take pictures, they wanted to ask questions — and I had to be a real jerk." The cost of the flights, rental car and hotel were all absorbed by Popick.
After that, he kept reaching out "again and again and again and again," without luck. He was passed around between staffers; calls went unreturned even after calls were promised. Emails Popick sent to the campaign (which he shared with The Post) detail the interaction between himself and the campaign and his ultimate request. "We are now asking and DEMANDING for what has been promised to us and is now long-overdue (and has been rightly earned by us); that is, a performance at the convention," an email dated July 9 reads. "Or, be made whole."
The fact that no lawsuit has yet been filed suggests that going public first is the latest method by which Popick is hoping to get paid by the campaign. Unless there are more details here, I'm not sure how much success Popick is likely to have with a lawsuit. It seems like a stretch from a legal angle. Without a written agreement, and with any verbal agreement sounding fuzzy at best, with Popick adding his own after-the-fact requirements for alternative compensation, I doubt any legal dispute stands much of a chance. Of course, it still doesn't look good for the Trump campaign, which had a (somewhat ridiculous) viral sensation in their camp and appears to have squandered it:
"At this point, my position is that I have no position, really," Popick said. "What he's done to my group or what he's not done for my group doesn't necessarily make him the best candidate, it doesn't make him the worst candidate. I still have to mull that over. He might still be the best candidate as president of the United States — or not."
"What I think I've learned," Popick added, "is that I'm not qualified to be a political commentator."
Of course, as the Washington Post article notes, Trump has a fairly long history of screwing over small businesses that he hires and then refuses to pay. So perhaps this is just the latest in a long line.