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Pro-Kinzinger mailer sparks controversy

A mailer to support U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger's campaign uses an image without the photographer's consent.
A mailer to support U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger's campaign uses an image without the photographer's consent.

A British photographer says the Illinois Republican Party is using his work without his consent for a mailer to support the re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

It's the second time this month a photo used in a GOP mailer for Kinzinger resulted in controversy.

The mailer in question touts Kinzinger's record in fighting illegal immigration and his support for Kate's Law, which the mailer said requires the immediate deportation of "violent criminals that put our families at risk."

The mailer features a photo of three heavily tattooed El Salvadoran men. This image comes from British photographer Adam Hinton's collection of portraits he took of gang members while visiting the Central American country. It's among the first photos that come up during a Google image search for "MS-13 gang members."

The campaign for congressional candidate Sara Dady, who is running in Tuesday's Democratic primary, alerted Hinton to the apparent theft of the photo.

Hinton was not happy.

"I can confirm that this is my image, and I certainly would never allow its use in anything so crass and disgusting as this flier," he wrote Thursday in an email to Dady campaign manager Dave McEvers. "This is the third time my image has been hijacked by the Republican Right."

He wants a public apology.

Kinzinger's campaign responded with a statement Friday to a question if it endorses the mailer: "The Congressman is anti-MS13 and anti-gang, and rejects the notion that using an image of MS13 is racist in any way," the statement said.

The image also is being used to support Laura Curran, a Republican candidate for executive in Nassau County, N.Y.

In his email, Hinton said he has asked another Republican to stop using his photo, but the campaign did not.

McEvers sent an email about the issue to the campaign of James Marter, who is facing Kinzinger in Tuesday's Republican primary.

"He's at is again, stealing images," McEvers wrote, referring to Kinzinger.

In an email to The Times, Linda Prestia, Marter's spokeswoman, said it looked liked the GOP is sending out "fake mailers again."

Earlier this month, the state Republican Party apologized to Sycamore-based Volunteer Action Center, a nonprofit group, for running a photo of its representatives without their consent in a mailer touting Kinzinger's pro-life credentials.

In 2016, the group had its photo taken with Kinzinger during the congressman's visit. The center objected to the use of its photo because, as a federally designated nonprofit agency, it is not allowed to get involved in politics.

In a letter to the group, Drew Collins, the state party's executive director, said his organization was "deeply sorry" for running a photo.

The party didn't return a message for comment on the latest issue. 

Two years ago, the state GOP repeatedly ran a photo a Times photographer took of Democratic state Rep. Andy Skoog at Burgoo Fest in Utica. They were included in mailers and TV ads against Skoog, who was running against the ultimate victor, Republican Jerry Long.

The newspaper protested, saying it did not want its photos used in political campaign materials. Yet the party continued to run the photo.

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