Campaign stunt launches a corporate 'candidate' for Congress

Bring on the competition, says Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), who holds the 8th Congressional District seat in Maryland.
Bring on the competition, says Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), who holds the 8th Congressional District seat in Maryland. (Melina Mara/the Washington Post)
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By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 13, 2010

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.

That's because this little upstart is, in fact, a start-up. Murray Hill is actually Murray Hill Inc., a small, five-year-old Silver Spring public relations company that is seeking office to prove a point (and perhaps get a little attention).

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 corporate candidate already has its own Web site, a Facebook page with 2,600 fans and an online ad on YouTube that has drawn more than 172,000 hits.

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.

It concludes with a rousing call to action: "Vote for Murray Hill Incorporated for Congress -- for the best democracy money can buy."

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.

Manifold mockery

Van Hollen welcomes the competition. "The majority on the Court has made a mockery of our campaign finance laws, and Murray Hill is just mocking the mockers," said Doug Thornell, a senior adviser to Van Hollen.


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