Not a Real Candidate, this Man Makes Kentucky Senate Race True Political Theater
“So this summer, I’ll be driving a big bus around Kentucky telling all the folks who happen to live there everything I won’t be doing for them,” said Gil Fulbright.
Fulbright is the latest “candidate” for U.S. Senate to enter the race in the Bluegrass, a campaign that previously included only Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader trying to keep his seat, and Democrat Alison Lundergand Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state. You may be seeing his ads on local television soon. He’s already up on YouTube.
Fulbright doesn’t represent a third political party, however, and he hasn’t filed as an independent with the state election officials.
In fact, he’s not really running. He and his campaign are fake.
He’s an actor paid by a “nonpartisan, anti-corruption campaign” called represent.us which began in 2012 “to end the culture of legalized corruption that has come to define modern politics,” according to its website found here.
Why Kentucky? Because represent.us calculations indicate that the McConnell-Grimes Senate race is turning out to be the most expensive in American history coming in at $100 million. The majority of that money is from out-of-state donors. McConnell’s out-of-state take is 87 percent of his available funds and Grimes’ out-of-state percentage of her fund-raising is just under that at 75 percent, according to represent.us.
At least 75 percent of each candidate’s funds come from out-of-state special interest groups, according to represent.us calculations. (Photo from represent.us)
“We’re setting out to make fixing corruption America’s No. 1 issue,” explains Louisville native Sean Kleier, a spokesman for represent.us. The Kentucky Senate race is “the perfect opportunity to get national press on this issue. Everyone’s going to be watching,” he says.
Watching what exactly? Watching the fake candidate crash campaign events, give speeches, run ads on TV “and do whatever it takes to get people talking about fixing our corrupt political system,” Kleier says.
The national media know, he asserts, that control of the U.S. Senate could “come down to this race.”
Josh Silver, represent.us director, broke the story today on CNN. “Americans are rightfully exasperated with the political system. They’re tired of being lied to, they’re tired of being sold out to the highest bidder. There’s clearly an appetite by the American people to be talked to in an honest way.”
That’s why they’re billing the public interest campaign as one about “the first honest politician,” says Kleier.
In ads going to run on televisions across the birthplace of Honest Abe, the fake candidate proclaims: “I’m Gil Fulbright. For the right price, I’ll support any message.”
Kleier says in a YouTube video that it was no accident that the national organization chose to highlight the most expensive campaign in history from one of the least populated states. “I’m from Kentucky so this is personal for me. I really want to be able to fix the problems with my home state,” he says.
“But this isn’t just about one place,” Kleier adds. “Every Congressional campaign has millions of dollars flowing into it and you better believe the people putting that money in want something in return.”
A tweet from Fulbright yesterday reads: “Ask not what your country can do for you … unless you can afford a lobbyist.”
The represent.us leadership say on the website that they stole a page out of television comedian and host Stephen Colbert – using satire to teach about or expose an issue. “Honest Gil’s campaign is the perfect way to highlight how money corrupts politics, both in Kentucky and nationwide, and rally the people behind a plan to fix our broken system,” Silver says.
More than $20,000 for the campaign was raised in under five days through an indiegogo.com request entitled “Help the Honest Politician Crash the Most Expensive Senate Race of All Time.”
As of July 9 when the following video went up on YouTube, the campaign had more than 500,000 supporters. Kleier says they’re looking for that number to top 1 million by November.
Here’s a “Gil Fulbright for Senate” commercial in which he offers to change his name if people pay him enough. Some of the suggestions? How about Phil Gulbright or Bill Fulbright or Phillip Mamouf-Wifarts:
Written by Lesley Cissel of KY Forward where this story first appeared. Erin Grigson also contributed.