Via The Economist:
- THE effort to elect Murray Hill to Congress is a political campaign unlike any other. It is rare for an election candidate to pledge to “put people second, or even third”, instead of the habitual first, but then the aspiring representative for Maryland’s 8th District is not a person but a company.
- According to its YouTube advert, Murray Hill, a public-relations firm, is taking advantage of a recent Supreme Court ruling that granted corporations full first-amendment political rights as people, to help create “the best democracy money can buy.”
- This candidacy has its attractions. After all, it would become the first elected official truly available to constituents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nor is it alone: according to the Washington Post, a firm called Computer Umbrella is now running for Congress in Virginia.
- Despite the Supreme Court’s controversial 5-4 ruling in the “Citizens United” case, which removed longstanding restrictions on political activism by companies, these bids for office still face significant obstacles—not least the requirement that candidates in Maryland be at least 18 years old. Murray Hill is just five. And it is hard to imagine many people voting for a candidate explicitly committed to putting business first.
- Still, the Murray Hill candidacy does raise an important point about the future of democracy and the role of business within it. The Supreme Court decision appears certain to increase the influence of business in American politics, which is widely perceived as having grown significantly in recent years, and is often assumed, fairly or not, to be a bad thing.
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Via Washington Post
- Murray Hill might be the perfect candidate for this political moment: young, bold, media-savvy, a Washington outsider eager to reshape the way things are done in the nation's capital. And if these are cynical times, well, then, it's safe to say Murray Hill is by far the most cynical. After the Supreme Court declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to funding political campaigns, the self-described progressive firm took what it considers the next logical step: declaring for office.
- "Until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence-peddling to achieve their goals in Washington," the candidate, who was unavailable for an interview, said in a statement. "But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves."
- William Klein, a "hired gun" who has been enlisted as Murray Hill's campaign manager, said the firm appears to be the first "corporate person" to run for office and is promising a spirited campaign that "puts people second, or even third."
- The ad makes a particularly passionate case for why it's necessary to have more direct corporate representation in Congress. In a soothing voice, a narrator bemoans that "as much as corporate interests gave to politicians, we could never be absolutely sure they would do our bidding." The ad includes images of gleaming office towers and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and promises Murray Hill will bring "enlightened self-interest and corporate accounting" to Congress.
- The firm, whose clients include labor unions and environmentalists, is seeking to enter the Republican primary for the 8th District seat held by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D). The firm "wanted to run as a Republican because we feel the Republican Party is more receptive to our basic message that corporations are people, too," Klein said, adding that his client has no particular beef with Van Hollen.
- Murray Hill does face a couple of tiny problems in its effort to get elected to Congress. For starters, candidates must officially register to vote as a Republican to run in a Republican primary in Maryland. Late this week, the Montgomery County Board of Elections wrote to Murray Hill, informing the firm that its voter registration application had been rejected. (down with the humans!) Just another case of The Man sticking it to Corporate America.
- The firm is weighing legal action, but the ruling still leaves open another potential path to victory. In Maryland, independent candidates are not required to be registered voters. They can qualify for the fall ballot by collecting enough signatures from voters in their district -- about 4,500, in this case. But the same pesky age issue is posed by the U.S. Constitution. It requires candidates for Congress to be at least 25 -- a concern that is likely to be flagged at the point the corporation attempts to file for office, which it has yet to do, said Jared DeMarinis, director of the candidacy and campaign finance division of the Maryland State Board of Elections.
- The firm has prepared to deal with other "antiquated" parts of election law through the use of a "designated human" capable of signing paperwork and showing up at debates, for example.
Which leads to the next logical steps:
- 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.
- In the meantime, Murray Hill is looking to franchise -- and found its first taker: Computer Umbrella of Sterling. The company is planning to run in Virginia's 10th Congressional District.