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In the Era of Celebrity Politicians, It May be Time to Look at the System

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2015 file photo, Kid Rock performs before the Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. The musician from suburban Detroit is teasing his potential 2018 U.S. Senate candidacy, though it is news to Michigan Republicans. Kid Rock, who was born Robert Ritchie, said Wednesday, July 12, 2017, that a website hinting at his campaign —www.kidrockforsenate.com — is legit. (AP Photo/Terry Renna, File)

In the Era of Celebrity Politicians, It May be Time to Look at the System

September 5, 2017 @ 11:13 am
by Admin
in Blog

Donald Trump broke all the conventional rules during his improbable rise to the White House. As the nation’s first to occupy the White House without prior public or military service, Donald Trump has broken a barrier.

Does that mean we should be prepared for a new era of politics?

Well, a potential- and possibly formidable (in more ways than one)- challenger to Trump in 2020 is wrestler/actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.[1] Another is the Founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.[2]

Whether Johnson or Zuckerberg would excel as the “Leader of the Free World” remains to be seen, but the fact that the question is being asked shows an interesting strain on our political system. Such bids are also bound to test our campaign finance laws as well.

Both Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee had been on television prior to launching their 2016 bids, but they did not test the viability of pairing such an occupation concurrently with a run for president. Would “The Rock” be able to headline major productions- and all the publicity that would bring- while seeking the highest office in the land?

Meanwhile Zuckerberg’s possible exercise of his current position to enhance presidential aspirations raises even more questions.

Those potential candidates- and others who might seek to follow in their past- ought to watch closely the campaign(?) of Kid Rock, who is currently testing the boundaries of our rules.

Common Cause, a left-leaning ally for reform, has filed a complaint with the FEC regarding the- depending on who you believe- hypothetical, publicity-stunt, or nascent campaign.[3]

Kid Rock, who has indicated and launched a site pointing to intentions to challenge U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in the 2018 election cycle, is tweeting, talking, and putting out content as though he is running. He sure looks like a candidate for office, albeit an untraditional one.

Then, why hasn’t he registered with the FEC? While he has not hit the campaign trail or functioned like a candidate, he does have a website, is talking like a candidate, and is selling merchandise- with the campaign site directing users to a Warner Brothers page to buy shirts and the like. This is driving the complaint filed by Common Cause.

In a lengthy statement, which included some trademark profanity, Kid Rock sounded Trumpian in his attacks on big government and the media. His defense was also that he was launching a 501c4 for voter registration efforts and was not an official candidate.

So where does that leave us? Well, given the FEC’s propensity for deadlock[4] and general desire to accommodate outside-the-box candidates, it is unlikely that this complaint will derail Kid Rock’s bid. It is likely, however, that there will be some attempt to get the famed musician off the fence- officially in or out as a candidate.

But what of the merchandise sales? There will likely need to be some clarity there. While it’s clear that he could sell merchandise as part of a campaign, there are rules that govern that. Because the idea of a celebrity candidate- one where citizens would be interest in merchandise not directly affiliated with a campaign, is new, there may need to be some clarification down the road that would govern such transactions.

As a candidate, Kid Rock is very likely to challenge the rules of normalcy. He is also already challenging the rules that govern our campaigns. Lessons learned here, however, are likely to have ramifications far beyond the next senator from Michigan. The relationship between a candidate or hypothetical candidate, his/her celebrity status, and money is a story that is still needing to be written.

What do you think? Is Kid Rock profiting off the electoral process? Is he making a joke of our system? Is that a joke that should be told or one that is off limits? Would it be “big government” or “clean government” if his current path were put in check by the FEC? What ramifications does this have on future celebrity candidates and what, if any, new rules should be implemented? Join the conversation HERE and continue to check back at www.TakeBack.org for the latest thoughts on reform.

[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/dwayne-johnson-for-president-committee-files-with-fec/

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/15/mark-zuckerberg-could-be-running-for-president-in-2020.html

[3] http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2017/09/01/kid-rock-campaign-law/105187840/

[4] https://www.insidepoliticallaw.com/2014/03/20/the-fec-where-a-tie-can-be-almost-a-win/

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