The Supreme ruled in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the government may not place limits on the political speech of corporations. In that spirit, Murray Hill Inc., a Silver Spring, Md., PR firm, is planning to run for Congress. Eric Hensal, the man behind the firm, says the run is meant to show to the public the logic of the court decision played out to its conclusion.
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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The Supreme Court ruled in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the government may not place limits on the political speech of corporations. In Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent from that ruling, he said: Under the majority's view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech.
And in that same spirit, a Silver Spring, Maryland, PR firm, Murray Hill Inc., is planning to run for Congress.
(Soundbite of advertisement)
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Unidentified Man: The way we see it, corporate America has been the driving force behind Congress for years, but now it's time we got behind the wheel ourselves. Murray Hill Incorporated will bring enlightened self-interest and corporate accounting to government to put business first...
SIEGEL: Well, joining us now is the designated human behind Murray Hill Inc. Eric Hensal, welcome to the program.
Mr. ERIC HENSAL (Murray Hill Inc.): It's good to be here.
SIEGEL: Is this an exercise in satire?
Mr. HENSAL: Well, for us, it's an exercise in sort of entering a market that's developing, I think. We are very serious about pushing forward with this effort, and we simply believe the American public should see the logic of this majority decision played out to its conclusion.
SIEGEL: And your corporate candidate, Murray Hill Inc., hopes to run in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. Is that the district selected?
Mr. HENSAL: Yes, it's Maryland Congressional District 8. We're currently working on getting to become a registered voter, which we were just recently rejected. So we have to work on our response to that. But we need to be a registered voter to run in the Republican primary, which is the place we feel would be most hospitable to a corporate candidate. At least initially, but I guess down the road, you know, the logic of the decision again plays out, and the parties really won't be so relevant. But for now, we think the Republican primary would be a place to be.
SIEGEL: Well, what can the corporate Murray accomplish in Congress that a merely corporeal candidate cannot accomplish?
Mr. HENSAL: Well, we just believe that we should take the middleman out of politics. If you're going to let the ability to have unlimited money flow from corporations, you know, into campaigns, well, you'll just have greedy politicians sort of bidding up the price to do politics.
And I think the consumer would suffer over time, you know, paying a politics tax. So we're just advocating taking the middleman out and directly electing corporations, and we feel that just is, you know, in some ways is probably a more honest way of doing things.
SIEGEL: Now, you do have one commercial for Murray Hill Inc. online. Anything else planned in the future, when the campaign rolls out a bit more?
Mr. HENSAL: Well, we're looking at different avenues to explore. I mean, clearly our one of our campaign themes is to put people second or even third, but we do, for now, need to make sure we have some votes. So I think we're looking at potentially a spot that involves our belief in free speech and free trade and sort of saying what is the problem of taking, you know, foreign corporate money for campaigns?
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SIEGEL: I see. Murray, I saw, has a Facebook page.
Mr. HENSAL: Yes, we do. We have over 6,000 fans. There was a startup fan site that said stop Murray Hill Inc. that only got up to four people, and now, I can't find it. So clearly, the public is with us.
SIEGEL: And you have a slogan on the Facebook page: Corporations are people, too.
Mr. HENSAL: Exactly. I think the Supreme Court majority's decision really brings that home. I think they set aside this whole old-fashioned notion that we are somehow endowed by a creator with inalienable rights, and it's a superstition that they just put aside and really focused on what speech is for them, which is a product.
So for us, why not run for Congress? I mean, we're challenging a political system that's, frankly, sort of biased towards bodied people.
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Mr. HENSAL: And you know, we're fighting an uphill battle, but we need to challenge these things just like civil rights movements have challenged boundaries for, you know, generations.
SIEGEL: Well, Eric Hensal, thanks a lot for talking with us about this.
Mr. HENSAL: Well, thank you.
SIEGEL: That's Eric Hensal, the designated human representing Murray Hill Inc., a corporation attempting to run for Congress. He joined us from public radio station WTMD in Towson, Maryland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.