before i begin today’s post, i realize this has been up for 2 months and i’ve only managed to squeeze out 10 posts total, including this one. from here on in, my loyal readers will be guaranteed 2 posts per week. but on that schedule, i make no promises that some of them won’t have much more substance than a knock knock joke.
a corporation wants to run for congress. i’m going to repeat this, because it warrants repetition – murray hill, inc., is trying to run for a seat in congress. and they might have some, albeit thin, legal ground to work with. i’ll get to the details in just a moment, but first i believe some background is necessary.
there was a recent ruling in an ongoing case (citizens united v. federal election commission) about whether or not campaign finance law applied to a film about hillary clinton, which was produced by the conservative group citizens united. the argument here being, of course, that a highly critical portrayal of a candidate running for office can be considered part of a campaign and the production costs can thereby be considered campaign financing. the ruling came down in late january, citing that under the first amendment, “corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited,” as political free speech, overturning the court’s prior rulings on austin v michigan chamber of commerce in 1990 and mcconnell v. federal election commission in 2003, which were directly meant to prevent large sums of corporate money from unfairly affecting elections. even president obama said the ruling “gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in washington – while undermining the influence of average americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.” there goes the mccain-feingold act, and here comes open doors to corporations having a lot more political pull come election season.
but that’s old news, now for the follow up – as i mentioned before the history lesson, murray hill, inc, a public relations firm in silver spring, maryland, is trying to run for a seat in maryland’s 8th congressional district, challenging democrat chris van hollen for the position. why? to prove a point, have some fun, and as i’m quite sure, to get some press (after all, this is what they do). eric hensal, the company’s president/”designated human,” has taken the aforementioned ruling’s logic and has done, as he calls, the next logical step. “until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence-peddling to achieve their goals in washington,” says murray hill to the john wagner of the washington post. he continues “but thanks to an enlightened supreme court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.”
the logic is that the citizens united ruling gives corporations some of the same rights as private citizens – which brings to light a myriad of legal questions on the equivalence of a corporate person vs a single human citizen. if campaign money counts as free speech, do corporations get to vote in elections, like regular citizens? voting is the epitome of free speech if the act of voicing our opinions are protected by the first amendment. since this can be inferred from the supreme court ruling, shouldn’t it be allowed? as hensal says, “there’s a certain logic that the american public deserves to see played out.”
by stating they want to run as republicans, they also got a jab in on the republican party, claiming that “we feel the republican party is more receptive to our basic message that corporations are people, too.”
of course to even be eligible to run for congress, one must be 25 years of age or older, and this maryland firm misses the mark, being only 5 years old. but i’m sure these are issues that will come up later on in the process.
never have i seen an act of political and judicial satire so public that it gets coverage from major news outlets. in addition to shedding light on an interesting political issue and, well, let’s call it a dubious SCOTUS ruling, murray hill has shown that they are also extremely good at what they do. they’re chalking up a win regardless of how this all plays out.
murray hill’s clients include the natural resources defense council and the association of construction professionals. if you’re curious, here are links to murray hill’s website, and fantastic youtube campaign video: