The Rittenhouse Trial Becomes an Avenue for Political Fund-Raising

As the jury deliberates, fund-raising emails from both supporters and critics increasingly are reflecting how much the case has become a political touchstone.


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The Rittenhouse trial becomes an avenue for political fund-raising as well as a legal case.

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:51 a.m. ET

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:51 a.m. ET

Kyle Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, signed one of the fundraising emails for his defense fund.Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

As the jury deliberates in Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial, fund-raising emails from both his supporters and his critics increasingly are reflecting how much the case has become a political touchstone as well as a highly charged legal proceeding.

His supporters have been sending out campaign-style fund-raising emails, casting Mr. Rittenhouse as a victim and soliciting contributions to a fund set up by his family to cover his legal expenses. At the same time, at least one political action committee is using anger at Mr. Rittenhouse to fund-raise for progressive candidates.

“Both the prosecution and my son Kyle’s defense team have finished their closing arguments and I am beyond nervous,” Mr. Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, wrote in a fund-raising appeal that was issued on Tuesday.

“This corrupt persecution has been extremely difficult, and I’m reaching out with an emergency request to help ensure it doesn’t bury us,” she said in the email. “We’re already expecting legal costs of about $110,000 for November, but if we can find 2,500 people to donate over the next 48 hours, we should be okay.”

Another email soliciting donations for the fund was signed by David A. Clarke, a former sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis., and a former spokesman for a pro-Trump political action committee.

“What was done to that city last summer by a bunch of violent lunatics was an absolute disgrace,” the email said, referring to demonstrations in Kenosha, Wis., after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. “Kyle was there that night, you better believe it. But instead of starting fires, he had a fire extinguisher trying to put them out. Instead of trying to hurt people, he had a medical kit offering first aid to anyone who needed it.”

The tone of the emails reflects the way Mr. Rittenhouse has become a hero to many on the right and how the outcome of the trial is being yoked to national politics.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Collective PAC, a progressive group, sent an email on Tuesday using the trial to urge supporters to donate to Attorney General Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Democrat who is running for re-election.

“The truth is that violent white supremacists like Rittenhouse will continue to inflict senseless violence across the country if we don’t hold them accountable,” the email said. “That starts with electing people who will actually fight for justice.”

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