What it’s like on the Ready for Hillary Bus (when it’s not broken down)

An hour after Hillary Clinton finished signing books at the Free Library of Philadelphia, a bus with her name and picture remained stuck on the street nearby. A hydraulically operated platform that raised and lowered the bus stopped working, and the team didn’t have a jack. The presence of the 37-and-a-half-foot Winnebago raised some questions. “Is she in there?” one passerby asked. It was natural to wonder. The former secretary of state’s iconic texting photograph is plastered on the back, and the bus says “Ready for Hillary” all over it.

 

The truth is, Clinton has never been on the bus, and she probably never will be. This is the Ready for Hillary PAC bus, and even though the gang has driven 10,000 miles, following Clinton wherever she goes, not one of them has even laid eyes on the possible presidential candidate. “I see the b-roll on the news, so I know she’s been [around],” says Seth Bringman, the PAC’s communications director.

“Are you all working for her campaign?” an elderly lady wearing a sunhat and leaning on a cane asked Adam Parkhomenko, 32, the executive director of the PAC.

“No, we’re an independent group that’s urging her to run,” he said.

“Well, I hope she wins,” she said.

“I hope she runs,” he said.

This is what it looks like when you have a campaign bus before there is even a campaign: There’s Parkhomenko, who has been organizing on behalf of Clinton in various capacities since he was 17 years old. When he is not running the PAC he works as a part-time cop in Washington D.C. He travels with his “better half,” Kirby Hoag, 23, who in addition to being the deputy operations director is also a cheerleader for the Washington Redskins. The bus has a rotating cast of other employees, including Evan Wessel, who has an identical twin that works for another pro-Hillary Super PAC called Correct the Record.

Eric Jeng, who interned for the group right out of college, is Parkomenko’s assistant, and the guy willing to crawl under the bus to make the needed repairs. I told Wessel, who returned with a jack, that I’m looking for color, but that the prospect of the bus falling on Jeng made me nervous.

“It will sell papers,” Wessel said. Fortunately it doesn’t come to that, and they get the bus rolling.

The bus has already traveled through 10 states and the District of Columbia, following Clinton wherever she goes on her book tour in support of the new “Hard Choices.” They also plan to check out the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Alamo and Mt. Rushmore. They’ve already seen the RV Hall of Fame in Indiana. There are empty Sprite cans in the kitchen sink, there’s an old pizza from Chicago in the oven and there’s a bathroom in the back that no one is allowed to use.

 

But these guys are more than just political Deadheads following around their favorite group on a great American summer road trip. After all, this is a PAC that has already spent more than $4.86 million since forming in April.

Seth Bringman — the communications director who can be found riding the bus with cargo shorts, shoes without socks and his adorable Jack Russell terrier, Mya, on his lap — won’t say exactly how much of that went into purchasing the bus, but said it was less than the private jet that Parkhomenko looked at.

Parkhomenko said it was less than six figures, but more importantly, that he believed it will pay for itself with the data it lets them collect from supporters. They park out front of events, hand out stickers and posters, and sign up people by the hundreds to get on their mailing list.

“It’s a great way to identify the people who are out there,” Parkhomenko said while he drove the bus past a highway sign for the NSA. The plan is for the PAC to exist until Clinton decides whether or not she wants to run for president. If she decides the answer is yes, the Ready for Hillary PAC will have laid down an incredible amount of grassroots work. If she passes, the team on the bus swears that they won’t be devastated.

“I won’t look back and have to wonder what more I could have done to try and influence her decision,” Parkhomenko said. “There will be nothing more I could have done to make sure she knows about the amount of support she has.”

When hundreds of people lined up around the block in Philadelphia to get autographs from Clinton, the vast majority of them were wearing stickers that said “I’m Ready for Hillary.” There’s no doubt she knows about the PAC’s efforts.

Heads turn to follow the bus wherever it goes (“I’m not going to lie, sometimes we get thumbs down, but we get a lot more thumbs up,” Bringman said), and stops at the gas station are delayed by people who want to snap a photo. So by the time the bus gets to Foggy Bottom on Friday night for an event at Lisner Auditorium, there’s not much of a crowd to greet it; everyone is already inside, where Clinton has started speaking. The bus is mobbed after the event, though, and there were already people hanging around the Pentagon City Costco where Clinton is set to sign books on Saturday. After leaving Foggy Bottom the bus would head there and park itself for the night, whether or not that was legal.

“What is anyone going to do?” Parkhomenko says. “No one can tow this thing when the jacks are down.”​

Ben Terris is a writer in the Washington Post's Style section with a focus on national politics.
SECTION: {section=lifestyle, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=lifestyle, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Next Story
David Montgomery | June 13