A story has been circulating for about a week now claiming that a company admitted that politicians rent crowds of people from them in order for their campaigns to seem more popular. It also hints that Jeb Bush may be one of these politicians and that his run for the White House might need all the paid help it can get. While this may seem shocking if it is true, it wouldn’t be the first time in American history that similar tactics have been used. Elections in the American colonies and the early years of the United States were often won by giving voters alcohol, and even George Washington himself won an election by getting people liquored up.
Voter intimidation, poll taxes, astroturfing or purchasing fake Twitter followers like Mitt Romney apparently did in the 2012 presidential election are just a few of the ways candidates and political parties have sought an advantage over their opponents. Recently, Donald Trump was accused of paying people $50 to spend a couple of hours at his 2016 presidential campaign announcement and pretend to be enthusiastic supporters. This really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise as nobody was truly excited about the prospect of Donald Trump running for president, outside of political writers and comedians who are banking on easy material.
The story which comes from a previously unheard of blog called “Liberty Chat” claims to have shocking information showing that politicians are paying for crowds of supporters, and the featured image when you see the link on Reddit or Facebook shows Jeb Bush. The story is currently trending on the front page of Reddit as I write this, and it is also making the rounds on a number of Facebook pages. However, the story really has nothing to do with Jeb Bush (other than mentioning his candidacy), nor does it really try to determine any candidate who could have possibly used the services of Crowds on Demand.
Here’s what the founder of Crowds on Demand, Adam Swart, tells the blogger for Liberty Chat, Ian Cioffi:
We have worked with dozens of candidates in the US primarily but not exclusively Republican. Mostly they are candidates who suffer from lack of enthusiasm/turnout at rallies and in need of a ‘game change’ (sorry, that’s a loaded term now!). The candidates have been primarily congressional/senate candidates. We’ve only worked with one (serious) presidential candidate thus far. I have found our approach has led to increased poll numbers and, in many case made the margin of victory for a few reasons:A) Photo-ops at rallies. Having a diverse group of people (race/gender/age) around the candidate is critical especially for those who are constantly followed by reporters but even for those who only get a couple pieces per day.B) Enthusiastic crowds bring more media attention and shift the narrative onto grassroots supporters. Press always want to understand why people support candidate x or candidate y. Giving them great footage of enthusiastic supporters speaking about their love for the candidate provides great quotationsC) Gives a sense of legitimacy for the candidate among their existing supporters. When they see lots of enthusiastic folks at rallies, they feel like they’re backing the right horse.D) Bolsters the candidates’ self-confidence. Some candidates knew about the paid crowds and other times we have been hired by outside organizations. In both cases, seeing more supporters gave them the confidence to up their game on stage. (Source)
The key word here is “serious” when talking about the people who have contracted with Crowds on Demand.
It is also important to point out that quite often when you see any kind of website or Facebook page with the word “liberty” in the title, chances are you’re dealing with a libertarian group, which happens to be the case here once again. Liberty Chat doesn’t state upfront that they are a libertarian blog, but it doesn’t take long to figure out that they are by reading through their blog posts or the poll question they have up asking if the Libertarian Party should endorse Rand Paul. Oh yeah, and then there is the LibertyFest NYC event scheduled for October 10th, 2015 also prominently advertised on the story about Crowds on Demand.
To summarize, a libertarian website posts a blog and tons of liberals pass it on as gospel because it sounds scandalous, and oh look, there’s a Republican in the photo the site used. There’s really nothing more to the story than a company sends actors out to events for celebrities and politicians to make them appear more popular than they really are, which considering some of the candidates the GOP has put forward recently, isn’t that big of a stretch. Even if it were to be found that Jeb Bush or another leading candidate was using the services of Crowds on Demand or some other agency, is that really any different than the myriad of other political strategies used over the ages? Excuse me, but haven’t we all heard this same old “both parties are the same” line by people who are trying to convince us to vote for the Libertarian Party before?
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