Thursday, March 4, 2010

CQ Weekly article

Company Makes a Run for It
By Rebecca Adams, CQ Staff

Since the Supreme Court has decided that corporations have just as much right as other “persons” to spend what they like to influence elections, a group of liberal activists reasons, why couldn’t a corporation just skip a step and run for political office itself?

Anyway, that’s what the folks think at Murray Hill Inc., an advocacy and media firm in Silver Spring, Md., with a client list mainly of liberal activists. The company has filed candidacy papers to run as a Republican in the Montgomery County congressional district represented by Democrat Chris Van Hollen. The firm’s president, Eric Hensal, says he’s franchising the tools for candidacy and encouraging other “corporate persons” to run for office. The first franchisee is Computer Umbrella Inc. of Sterling, Va., which is plotting a House run.

“The Supreme Court has taken a bold step in planting a flag for corporate civil rights,” Hensal says. “There’s so much money in politics, but we should just get rid of the middleman. People just get in the way of politics.”

The company’s online video ad, which has been viewed on YouTube nearly 170,000 times, heralds a “new day” in corporate candidacy: “Thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, corporations now have all the rights the founding fathers meant for us. It’s our democracy — we bought it, we paid for it, and we’re going to keep it.”

Aside from the fact that federal law recognizes corporations, partnerships and similar arrangements as artificial “persons” in a limited way — for lawsuits, for instance, and to buy and hold property — there are obvious practical problems in running for office.
The Constitution says House members have to be at least 25 years old; Murray Hill was founded only five years ago. And to participate in the Sept. 14 GOP primary, the company has to prove it is a registered Republican. Given the unlikelihood of that, Hensal says the corporation may run as an independent, which would require collecting about 4,000 signatures.

Even then, there’s the problem that the company is, well, not an individual, as Maryland law requires. “That might be a stumbling block for Murray Hill,” saysJared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance at the Maryland Board of Elections.

Van Hollen, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has criticized the court ruling on political contributions, is playing along. “This won’t be the first time Van Hollen has taken on big corporate special interests,” says senior adviser Doug Thornell. However, “it will be the first time he has run against one.”

Source: CQ Weekly
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