Corporate entity becomes ‘candidate’, kicks off bid for Congress
By Stephen C. Webster
Saturday, March 13th, 2010 -- 12:14 pm
When the Supreme Court decided the case Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, henceforth allowing corporate soft money to influence U.S. elections, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) cynically opined that it would lead to the election of the "congressman from Wal-Mart."
Turns out, he may be right.
Meet Murray Hill, Inc., the first corporation to run for Congress in the United States.
"Until now, corporations only influenced politics with high-paid lobbyists and backroom deals," the company's YouTube account declares. "But today, thanks to an enlightened supreme court, corporations now have all the rights the founding fathers meant for us. That's why Murray Hill Incorporated is taking democracy's next step-- running for Congress."
Murray Hill, Inc. even has a fan page on Facebook, and a campaign ad. Watch:
Hill says it plans to file as a Republican for the GOP primary in Maryland's eighth congressional district, currently represented by Democrat Chris Van Hollen.
Van Hollen, along with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), introduced legislation in February they hope will help blunt the effect of the court's decision by restoring some of the restrictions on corporate campaign spending. Hill reportedly has "no beef" with Van Hollen, though the position seems more part of the campaign's schtick than anything.
The company, a self-titled "progressive" messaging firm, was launched in 2005 by one Eric Hensal, who used to work with Group360, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.
Hill said in a statement that its campaign would put people "second, or even third," according to The Washington Post.
"It's a new day," Hill's ad says. "Until now, corporations influenced politics with high paid lobbyists and backroom deals. However, as much as corporate interests gave to politicians, we could never be absolutely sure they would do our bidding. But today, thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, corporations now have all the rights the founding fathers meant for us. It's our democracy: we bought it, we paid for it and we're going to keep it."
Hill "wanted to run as a Republican because we feel the Republican Party is more receptive to our basic message that corporations are people, too," campaign manager William Klein told the Post.
When the Supreme Court first decided Citizens United, 41 industry leaders signed a letter to Congress urging the end of what they called corporate "bribery."
"Is there a difference between campaign contributions and bribery?" said Alan Hassenfeld, chairman of Hasbro, Inc, who co-signed the letter. "It is long past the time to stop requiring that our elected officials moonlight as telemarketers raising money for their re-election campaigns rather then devoting all their time to solving the problems before this nation."
A blogger with watchdog group The Sunlight Foundation called the decision the "corporate globalization" of U.S. elections, cautioning that allowing corporate funds in elections would also make way for undue foreign influence on U.S. politics.
"It allows corporations to spend all the money they want to buy and sell elected officials through the campaign process," Rep. Grayson said of the Citizens United case. "It allows them to reward political sellouts, and it allows them to punish elected officials who actually try to do what's right for the people."
The Post adds:
Whether or not a corporation ultimately replaces Van Hollen in Congress, Murray Hill's interest has sparked other speculation among the political chattering class in Maryland.
Why not have an accounting firm run for comptroller, the state's chief tax collector? Why not a law firm for attorney general? The winning firm could arrive in office with a full cadre of associates and save taxpayers money.
It remains to be seen whether the attention generated by Murray Hill's bid will be good for its bottom line.