03.31.2010 0

The Potemkin Candidate

  • On: 04/06/2010 09:42:07
  • In: Elections
  • By Michael Swartz

    At first glance, Murray Hill wouldn’t be a name to jump out at a political observer. In an era of political newcomers thanks to the effect of TEA Party activism, Murray Hill would seem to be just another Republican entering Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District fray, seeking the GOP nomination to face entrenched Congressman Chris Van Hollen. Beating Van Hollen, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, would seem like a tall order and an incredible accomplishment in a district which arguably may be the most liberal-leaning in America.

    The campaign has drawn a significant amount of attention, though, something that first-time political candidates would drool over – Murray Hill’s campaign Facebook page has over 10,000 fans and the bid’s YouTube advertisement has drawn over 200,000 views. Obviously their local Congressional campaign has taken on a national scope.

    But Murray Hill isn’t just one who would be derided as a RINO (Republican In Name Only.) In fact, Murray Hill isn’t a person at all.

    Call it the intersection of a fortunate choice of names and slick packaging, but the nascent Murray Hill campaign was a brainchild of the marketing and public relations firm which bears the name. Its Congressional bid was their logical extension of the recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling which threw out several campaign finance prohibitions on corporate campaign expenditures. In their view, to give corporations free speech rights also gives their company the right to run for Congress. Murray Hill chose to run as a Republican “because we feel the Republican Party is more receptive to our basic message that corporations are people, too.”

    Yet the creative minds backing Murray Hill’s bid think in a manner quite differently than the GOP mantra of lower taxes, less government, and increased freedom – in fact, they have seen the Republicans as their opposition. William Klein, Murray Hill’s campaign manager, has worked on numerous Democratic campaigns and firm founders and partners Eric Hensal and Patrick Mancino cut their political teeth by promoting the interests of organized labor groups, particularly in the construction industry. Their client base has primarily come from labor and environmental groups wishing to promote a softer image.

    So far Maryland’s state board of elections has taken a dim view of Murray Hill’s ballot bid, denying them in part because the five-year old company technically doesn’t meet the age requirement for running for Congress. But that hasn’t stopped the company from pressing on with its ersatz campaign, even asking RNC Chairman Michael Steele to intercede on their behalf in the effort to convince the elections board to allow them registration and candidacy.

    Of course, their campaign isn’t so much about running for Congress as it is being upset that the Supreme Court leveled the political playing field between corporations and unions – in fact, the changes made by the Supreme Court also helped labor interests by overturning precedent disallowing their participation, too. But the previous rules did give Big Labor an advantage, and the Citizens United ruling eroded that edge. Murray Hill would have never considered a political run had it not been for this particular Supreme Court decision.

    But over twenty states – including Maryland – already allow corporate funding of elections, and one need only look at the Democratic dominance of the Free State to see that corporate funding alone hasn’t helped the GOP there. In that respect, Murray Hill is acting like the five-year-old it is by putting up this petulant bid for a Congressional seat.

    Michael Swartz, an architect and writer who lives in rural Maryland, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

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