A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Trump associate Lewandowski, governor candidate Deters sue each other over contract, defamation

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

The first campaign manager of Donald Trump’s successful bid for president in 2016 and a Republican candidate for governor from Northern Kentucky are suing each other.

Corey Lewandowski of Windham, Mass., who also ran President Trump’s super political action committee Make America Great Again Action, filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Covington against Eric Deters of Kenton County, claiming breach of contract and defamation.

Eric Deters

On Tuesday, Deters countersued Lewandowski in Kenton Circuit Court, claiming breach of contract.

The legal wrangling between Lewandowski and Deters provides insight into the goings-on of election campaigns. The Trump organization cut ties with Lewandowski last September amid allegations of sexual misconduct by a Trump donor.

In his 26-page lawsuit filed by attorney Christopher Wiest seeking more than $75,000 in compensatory damages and an unspecified amount in punitive damages, Lewandowski said he met Deters last Feb. 23 at a fund-raising event at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida that cost $100,000 to attend.

The suit said Deters paid to attend the event in hopes of receiving Trump’s endorsement for Deters’ campaign for governor of Kentucky.

At the event, said Lewandowski’s lawsuit, Deters told Lewandowski that he was a well-respected Kentucky attorney, was independently wealthy, had more than $5 million in the bank, and had sufficient funds to pay for his gubernatorial campaign.

Lewandowski believed Deters and in March entered into an agreement with Deters and his campaign, the suit said. Lewandowski Strategic Advisors was to provide “strategic advice and counsel” for Deters’ campaign” that included at least one meeting or a conference call each week with a representative of Deters to discuss the company’s work.

The term of the agreement was through Nov. 30, 2022, but either party could terminate it within 30 days’ notice to the other, the suit said.

Compensation was due in the amount of $17,500 per month, with the first payment for March, 2022, due immediately, and remaining payments of $17,500 per month due on the first business day of each subsequent month.

After signing the agreement, Deters expressed his “ardent desire” to be endorsed by Trump, the suit said.

Lewandowski told Deters that Trump makes his own decisions on endorsements, the suit said.

Corey Lewandowski

It said Deters and his campaign paid the $17,500 due for March, 2022, but did not pay when due and owing the fee for services rendered in April, 2022. Deters promised to make that payment in May, 2022, it said.

At Deters request, the suit said, Lewandowski took a trip to Kentucky in May, 2022, stayed with Deters, and gave a multiple-hour presentation to Deters’ supporters about a plan to win the race for governor. In advance of that trip, Deters agreed to reimburse Mr. Lewandowski’s travel expenses.

In May, 2022, rather than paying what was owed, the suit said, Deters paid $17,100 for May, and failed to make the April, 2022, payment that was due.

Also in May, 2022, the suit said, Deters paid to attend a Kentucky Derby event held on May 7 with former President Trump, at a cost to Deters of $75,000.

“Certain appropriate behavior was expected from attendees by former President Trump and his associates at that May 7, 2022, event,” the suit said. “Attendees were told ahead of time it would be inappropriate to post photographs from the event, and to discuss with the media any alleged statements that former President Trump made about (U.S.) Senator Mitch McConnell (of Louisville.)

“Deters did both things he was asked not to do, and this was reported in the Louisville Courier-Journal.”

Lewandowski informed Deters that Deters’ behavior at the Derby event, and his comments to the media that followed it, would likely be seen as being disloyal to former President Trump.”

Trump later endorsed Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron for governor.

“Deters was incensed by this development,” the suit said. “He called Mr. Lewandowski and screamed at him. Deters became even more incensed when Mr. Lewandowski told Deters that Deters only had himself to blame.

“By June 1, 2022, Mr. Lewandowski was seriously troubled by Deters’ increasingly erratic behavior. He also had learned that the representations Deters made in February, 2022, at the Mar-A-Lago event were materially false. Specifically, Mr. Lewandowski learned that Deters was not a Kentucky attorney, that Deters’ license had been suspended or revoked in Kentucky for various acts of misconduct, that Deters was not independently wealthy, that Deters did not have more than $5,000,000 in the bank, and that Deters could not self-fund his campaign for governor.”

Deters’ law practice was suspended last year.
On June 1, Lewandowski terminated his agreement with Deters in writing.

The lawsuit claims that under the agreement, and as a result of services performed, Deters owed Lewandowski Strategic Advisors, $17,500 per month in consulting fees for March, April, May, and June, 2022, for a total of $70,000 but Deters only paid $34,600, leaving a $35,400 balance.

It also said Deters owed Lewandowski Strategic Advisors reimbursement of approved expenses for the May trip, in the amount of $722.10.

In July 2022, counsel for Lewandowski Strategic Advisors sent Deters an email demanding payment.

In response, the lawsuit said, Deters said in an email, “Time to shift gears. Not only will I not pay a dime. I will counterclaim. And if I’m sued. I’m doing a bulldog show about how bad Corey sucked. There is an obvious reason everyone fires him.

“I’ll do all I can to warn everyone I can about Corey. You overplayed your cards. I don’t give two shits if you sue me. I’ll be suing him here in Kentucky too. Not only should he have taken the $18,000 in 30 days. He’s not getting a nickle (sic).”

On Monday, the lawsuit said, Deters said on a six-minute video on YouTube that Lewandowski made “a number of false and defamatory statements” about him and his career.

Besides filing a countersuit, Deters has filed two defamation lawsuits against attorney Wiest, alleging the attorney made defamatory statements against him.

Wiest also represents Kevin Harris, a former business partner of Deters, who sued Deters in June for breach of contract and fraud. 

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