Froedtert Health sues Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate

Milwaukee-based Froedtert Health filed suit Oct. 25 against Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels over the use of its logo in the Republican's campaign advertisements, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Oct. 26. 

As a 501(c)(3), Froedtert Health is prohibited by the Internal Revenue Service from engaging in political campaign activity for any candidate for public office at the federal, state and local levels. The health system alleges that a televised advertisement for Mr. Michel's campaign contains photos of an event related to a $15 million donation the Michels Family Foundation made to a cancer center affiliated with Froedtert that show the health system's logo. The health system claims the candidate rejected requests and a cease-and-desist letter to stop use of the logo.

Michels campaign officials allegedly agreed on Oct. 20 to blur out the health system's trademark in the ad and offered to stop running the ad entirely for the week, but then allegedly informed Froedtert officials on Oct. 24 the campaign would continue to use the logo in ads, according to the complaint accessed via The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report. Froedert filed suit the next day in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

"Froedtert has repeatedly requested that (the campaign) stop using photographs containing Froedtert's trademark on its website and in its political campaign,” the lawsuit alleges. “In making this request, Froedtert informed (the campaign) that it was being contacted by its employees, as well as members of the public, who questioned whether Froedtert was endorsing Tim Michels for governor because of (the campaign's) use of the photographs containing Froedtert's trademark."

Michels' campaign manager, Patrick McNulty, said in a statement Oct. 25 that the campaign "had no intention of offending any of the recipients of Tim and [his wife] Barbara's generous philanthropy" and has modified an ad that includes photos of the event, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. 

Court records show the lawsuit's court proceedings are on hold as the campaign and Froedtert work on a resolution.


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