In the days leading up to the speech, Trump’s team have used the State of the Union to raise funds for the president’s reelection effort through multiple email blasts to millions of supporters, text messages, and a new Facebook ad campaign.
The fundraising effort centers around the campaign eliciting funds in exchange for donors names scrolled during a live stream of the president's speech.
“All you have to do is contribute $25 by 11:59 TONIGHT to see your name proudly displayed LIVE during the State of the Union Address,” reads one Facebook ad. “This Address will be unlike any other. Your President is in the middle of an all-out IMPEACHMENT WAR, and the Left is doing everything they can to try and take me down. They’re trying to take you down,” the campaign told supporters in an email.
“I will deliver a historic State of the Union Address on February 4th. If you donate TONIGHT, your name will be one of the names shown LIVE,” reads another Facebook ad.
Some of the ads specify that donors names would be shown during the campaign’s livestream, while other don’t.
However, the price tag varies across ads. In some Facebook posts, Trump’s teams asks for $5, while in others the campaign asks for $25—all using the same language, just differing prices.
The new fundraising campaign ahead of the State of the Union has raised concerns with ethics watchdogs who say the president is “again attempting to monetize the State of the Union address,” an official White House event.
“His perversion of this national moment in the halls of Congress to advertise campaign access and fundraise is yet another case study on his corrupt Presidency,” said Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs at Public Citizen. “This administration has no shame. This latest outrage underscores the need for national reform to our system of moneyed politics.”
The Trump campaign raised eyebrows last year when they deployed a similar fundraising effort around the State of the Union.
But the campaign has made their controversial fundraising tactics a core aspect of their strategy.
It only took days for the campaign to turn Trump’s ordered airstrike in Baghdad that killed the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani into fundraising cash. And as recently as late last year, Trump fundraised off the U.S. military carrying out an operation to kill ISIS leader and founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, touting it in Facebook ads and emails to supporters.
“Americans are proud of the President and his record of accomplishment,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement to ABC News when asked about fundraising around the State of the Union.