Corporation acts as candidate
By James Peng
Published on Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Following a failed run for a United States Congressional seat last year, five-year-old Murray Hill discussed the possibility of a 2012 Republican presidential campaign at a meeting with the College Democrats Tuesday evening. Campaign representatives said the bid for presidency would make history not because of the candidate’s age, but because Murray Hill is not a person.
Murray Hill, Inc. — a Maryland-based public relations firm — based its platform on the fight against anti-corporate bigotry, campaign manager William Klein said at the meeting.
“This is a civil rights struggle,” Klein said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “We’re aiming for the next great frontier in civil rights — the rights of corporations.”
Eric Hensal, president of Murray Hill, Inc. and the corporation’s “designated human,” said he chose to exercise the company’s right to run for office following the Jan. 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which granted unlimited corporate funding of candidate elections.
“If the Supreme Court rules that corporations have the same rights as individuals to participate in campaigns as donors, then why can’t they get elected for office?” Klein said. “We’re taking the Supreme Court’s logic to the next step.”
By fighting for the rights of corporations and staging this campaign, Murray Hill, Inc. representatives hope to remove the middlemen in the political process, according to Klein.
“We’re removing the human interface from politics as much as possible,” Hensal said. “When you add humans to the mix, everything gets messy. Corporations are much more honest. You’re never going to have a sex scandal with a corporate candidate.”
Hensal said their corporation intends to “put people second or even third.” Some of the company’s campaign advertisements even use computer-generated avatars instead of real humans, he said.
Klein acknowledged that some people question the authenticity of a corporation’s presidential primary campaign, but declined to confirm whether the campaign is real or a satire.
“From the beginning, we resolved to never ever really hint that we’re doing anything less than completely serious about this campaign,” Klein said. “We played it straight and never cracked a smile.”
Klein said a satirical campaign can be more effective in raising awareness among the public than a typical speech or leaflet.
“If people are going to interpret what we’re doing as satirical, as a beginning of a conversation of what’s wrong with the campaign finance system, then we think we can penetrate people’s consciousness much more deeply than reading a political pamphlet,” Klein said.
Murray Hill, Inc. began its activism with a campaign for U.S. Congress in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District the week after the Supreme Court’s ruling.
After issuing its first campaign video and press release, Murray Hill, Inc.’s congressional campaign gained national publicity and was featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Huffington Post, and received airtime on National Public Radio, the British Broadcasting Corporation and CBS. Murray Hill, Inc. representatives also posted a promotional video — which now has over 220,000 hits — on YouTube, and created a Facebook page that soon gained over 10,000 fans, according to Hensal.
The corporation filed for voter registration in Maryland, where it was rejected on the basis that “only ‘an individual’ is qualified to register and vote,” according to a statement from the Maryland State Board of Elections, Hensal said. The Maryland election panel also prevented Murray Hill, Inc. from appearing on the ballot as a candidate, because law requires that a candidate be at least 25-years-old.
Hensal and Klein criticized progressives who often utilize resources ineffectively and claim to accomplish more change than they do, they said.
“[Progressives] can’t figure out who they’re talking too,” Klein said. “They just give everyone a pamphlet.”
Sayak Mukherjee ’12, president of the College Democrats, said he invited Murray Hill, Inc. representatives to speak because the corporation raises awareness about the issues of corporate financing that stem from the Supreme Court ruling. The corporation’s campaign clearly illustrates the problems that arise from unlimited corporation funding in elections, according to Mason Cole ’13, who attended the lecture.
“The ideas of corporate finance and Supreme Court decisions tend to lose people,” Cole said. “[The campaign] is a novel idea of approaching the issue.”