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Corporate 'candidate' fails to make ballot in Maryland's 8th district

Ben Pershing

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) has plenty of company on the ballot in Maryland's 8th district, but he won't have a company.

With filing officially closed in the state as of Tuesday night, four Republicans and three Democrats, including Van Hollen, are running for the Montgomery County-based seat in the Sept. 14 primary. Two more candidates -- one Libertarian and one from the Constitution Party -- will be on the ballot in November. But another hopeful who has drawn an outsized amount of attention didn't make the cut: Murray Hill Inc.

The small Silver Spring-based public relations company caused a stir earlier this year when it announced that it would run for Congress as a protest against the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which found that corporations have the same rights as individuals do when it comes to making campaign contributions.

"Until now," Murray Hill said in a January statement, "corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves."

Whatever the Supreme Court said or didn't say, Murray Hill had to clear another hurdle -- election law. In order to run in the Republican primary, Murray Hill had to be registered to vote as a Republican. In May, the company's effort to register was rejected by the state Board of Elections, after the Montgomery Board of Elections issued a similar rejection in March. But the company kept trying.

Last Friday, according to a report on the Baltimore Sun's Maryland Politics blog, Murray Hill president Eric Hensal showed up in Annapolis to file the company's campaign paperwork. According to the Sun:

[Election Board official Jared] DeMarinis, referring to a pocket Constitution, informed Murray Hill that, at age 5, it is not old enough to run. A candidate for Congress must be at least 25.

DeMarinis stamped "disqualified" on the candidate's filing forms, apologized and shook hands with Hensal.

"Officially," Hensal told DeMarinis, sounding official, "I'm appalled at this anti-corporate bigotry."

What's next for Murray Hill? The company has more than 10,000 fans on Facebook and will be "debating" Van Hollen at a forum at Northwood High School in Silver Spring July 20. (Van Hollen, a prominent critic of the Citizens United decision, has been supportive of the company's efforts).

There's always the possibility that Murray Hill could mount a write-in campaign in November. Given the company's youth, what would happen if it actually won? Someone call the Supreme Court.

By Ben Pershing  |  July 8, 2010; 4:05 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , Ben Pershing , Montgomery County  
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Murray Hill for Congress Campaign Manager William Klein here--
For all of you who have been following our campaign and agree with us that corporations are people too, not to worry! Like President Obama's nomination of Elaine Kagan, the architect of the failed argument against Citizens United, the Maryland Board of Elections decision is just another example of anti-corporate bigotry. But we're not going away--stay tuned to our Facebook page or watch for our blog on Huffington Post. And show your support next Tuesday night at Northwood High School!

Posted by: WilliamSKlein | July 8, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

What an incredible waste of space and time. This is not news. I'm angry that I read this, now.

Posted by: thelongblueline | July 8, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Language and nuance are important: the Citizens United decision did not give corporations the same rights as individuals with respect to campaign contributions (which are funds or resources given directly to campaigns), but rather with respect to independent expenditures (which are funds or resources given INdirectly to campaigns). That extra veneer of separateness that comes from an "independent" attempt to buy favor from a politician is what the Court decided made it okay for Murray Hill to spend every cent it has saying "You should vote for Mike Smith," but not for Murray Hill to give every cent it has to Mike Smith so that he could say "vote for me."

Somehow, this is supposed to make us feel more confident that our elected officials aren't being bought by corporate donors.

Posted by: gerbilsbite | July 9, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Corporations are not a person. I don't care what the SCOTUS ruled. I don't see corporations mentioned in the Constitution. But, leave it to the arrogance of corporations to make a move like this. It's bad enough corporations have been handed the same rights as the individual, now they would like to be government. A very dangerous thing.

Posted by: jckdoors | July 9, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

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