Gil Fulbright wants to get elected. That’s why he’s on TV, shaking hands with contractors, strolling through parks, and chatting with the elderly. But Fulbright also has a unique gift in the world of politics: He tells it like it is.
“This campaign, it’s not about me,” he says, ambling toward the camera from behind a tree. “It’s about crafting a version of me that will appeal to you.”
Suffice it to say, Gil Fulbright is a work of fiction, a character created by campaign finance reform group Represent.Us. But Fulbright could very well end up on TV screens in Kentucky, now that Represent.Us has raised more than $20,000 of its crowdfunding campaign to get him there. It took less than a week.
Represent.Us, a coalition of anti-corruption activists with a board of advisors that includes Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, the fallen former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, wants to show how money can work in politics. To them, Gil Fulbright is the perfect vehicle. He’s a white, middle-aged male mouthpiece that tells you he doesn’t care about you unless you’re a lobbyist or donor who can write a big, fat check. If the campaign’s successful, he’ll be pitted against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes–at least on TV.
Like Stephen Colbert’s super PAC, Gil Fulbright appears to be an attempt at consciousness-raising more than anything else. In a system that demands candidates spend much of their time wooing donors, Represent.Us contends that politicians focus less and less attention to actually listening to constituents. The McConnell-Grimes race is also a perfect opportunity for publicity–it’s shaping up to be one of the most expensive contests in the country.
But could Fulbright find a nonpartisan following that’s passionate about getting big money out of politics? We’ll see if the message outlasts the gimmick. Perhaps in a troubled two-party system, that’s what it’s come to: Our third-party candidates have to be imaginary in order to get any attention.