Mike Huckabee was forced to pay $25,000 in fines after settling out of court with the rock group Survivor, after the former presidential candidate used the band's "Eye of the Tiger" without permission.
In 2015 the White House hopeful held a rally for Kim Davis, the controversial Kentucky clerk who was briefly jailed for refusing to allow same-sex couples marriage licenses. On September 8, Davis was released after five days behind bars. Huckabee celebrated the occasion with supporters on the steps of the Rowan County Detention Center to the tune of the famous anthem from Rocky III, the 1982 entry in the series of boxing movies starring Sylvester Stallone.
Survivor lead guitarist Frankie Sullivan, who cowrote the song, stated that they did so without prior authorization from the band. "We did not grant Kim Davis any rights to use... The Eye Of The Tiger [sic]," Sullivan posted on Facebook. "I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!"
Sullivan hinted that there would be legal repercussions, and the resulting suit was uncovered Monday by CNN, who noted that Huckabee listed the settlement as a "campaign expense on federal election records" in a June 20 filing. Huckabee, who is still settling up his campaign debts, had to pay off the fee in two installments.
The onetime Fox News personality and former governor of Arkansas attempted to argue that he was well within his rights to use the song.
In court, his lawyers maintained that the infraction was "de minimis" -- or so trivial that it would cause minimal harm to the injured party -- and that it should be considered fair use due to the so-called religious nature of the gathering. "The purpose and character of the use was of a non-commercial and religious nature, signifying joy and praise at the release of Mrs. Davis from confinement," documents filed by Huckabee's legal team stated.
"That argument fell apart when the songwriter's lawyer pointed out that Huckabee claimed the rally as a presidential campaign expense," CNN reports. "He is now petitioning the Federal Election Commission to let him start a separate legal defense fund to pay off the settlement."
This isn't the first time that Survivor has taken legal action against politicians.
During the 2012 election cycle, the band sued presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who had been using its music in his rallies for years. The two parties settled. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor running against Gingrich in the Republican race, likewise received a cease and desist letter from the group and abruptly stopped playing "Eye of the Tiger."
In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Sullivan addressed the Huckabee incident.
"I do not like mixing rock and roll with politics; they do not go hand in hand," Sullivan said. "What upset me most was that, once again, my song was being used to further a political agenda -- and no one even bothered to ask for permission."
He further claimed that his opposition to allowing "Eye of the Tiger" to be used at a rally for Kim Davis was a personal one, as he opposes everything the county clerk stands for.
"I do not ... believe in denying gay rights and the freedom for all individuals to choose the lifestyle they want to live," Sullivan continued. "Our Constitution, and the words of our Founding Fathers, stand tall for freedom, which is what America is all about. I find it ridiculous in this day and age that this fight against gay marriage has gone on, even after the Supreme Court's ruling."