Fark’s Founder Wants to Run For Governor of Kentucky Without Ruining His Site

He does, however, want to destroy lobbying in the state.

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Jan 26 2015, 7:20pm

​Drew Curtis at a TED talk. Screengrab: ​YouTube

​ Can a guy who has spent the last 15 years managing an online community manage a state? We might find out soon: Drew Curtis, the founder and operator of news aggregator site Fark.com announced today that he's running for governor in his home state of Kentucky.

Fark isn't exactly an overly political site—it does run political stories from both sides of the aisle, but doesn't really comment on them—so the move comes a bit out of left field.

Curtis says that, over the years, he's been so disheartened by the role of money in politics that he decided it was time for him to run for office rather than continue to complain about it.

"Someone just straight called me out on it—they said, 'You know, you could win. You're complaining, but you're just being lazy,'" Curtis told me. "I turned 40 a little over a year ago, and when you turn 40, a weird thing happens. You realize that you're no longer winging it. You become an expert in certain things—I thought, I think I could run the state well."

Rather than having a formal platform, he plans to take a "do no harm" approach.

Curtis comes across as a serious candidate, and he says he's going to try to put together a real campaign as an independent in the state. His strategy will be partially inspired by campaign run by law professors Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, who took 34 percent of the vote in the New York governor's race last year running primarily on a platform supporting net neutrality and other causes the internet seems to care about, despite being outspent by the incumbent Andrew Cuomo by a margin of $20 million to $600,000.

"I have multiple scenarios and multiple outcomes—I've looked at what kinds of campaigns I can run on $0, what I can do with $100,000, what I can do with a million, what I can do with $5 million," he said.

Curtis, who is a native of the state and has lived there most of his life, will face a field expected to include Kentucky's attorney general and agricultural commissioner, but will not have to face current governor Steve Beshear, whose term limit will have hit.

You'd think that Curtis would leverage Fark.com throughout the campaign, but he said that probably wouldn't play well. Today's blog post isn't promoted any more than any other link on the site, and he said that most of his readers do not care about politics.

"I wouldn't care about politics if I wasn't doing this. It would make no sense for me to go crazy with this on Fark," he said. "[The users] would go crazy, they'd say, 'shut up, we get it.' It makes no sense to antagonize them."

Instead, he'll focus on getting media attention because of his status as Fark's owner (like this article, I suppose) and running a buzzy social media campaign. He says that a friend of his recently ran successfully for office, and he's learned from her.

"She learned that, if you put a [Kentucky] Wildcats basketball schedule on anything, people will take it," he said. "That's the kind of thing that resonates with people, and it's good that I had her doing this, because now I don't have to do this alone."

Rather than running on a platform of net neutrality, like Teachout, Curtis says he's primarily out to kill lobbying and the influence of money in politics as best as he can. He says the only way to do that is to run as an independent, because parties "own" their candidates. 

Rather than having a formal platform, he plans to take a "do no harm" approach—he'll support and sign legislation based on what an eight-person legislative analysis team he plans on setting up deems best for the most number of people in his native state.

That may sound a bit vague, but Curtis says that decisions become easier once money is taken out of the equation, and more practical decisions can be made based primarily on what that legislative team decides.

"In Michigan, the car dealerships called the legislators there and said ' please pass a law banning Teslas,' and the dealerships paid their money and it went through. That benefits nobody," he said. "So much of it is just a giant money grab by both parties."

"When I leave office, I want people to say not much changed, but things are a little bit better than they were before," Curtis said. "I want to have no impact."

And that's why he's running for governor instead of for the statehouse—as governor, he says he can veto bad legislation. He says his legislative analysis team would let lawmakers know in advance which bills he would veto because of the people who are lobbying for it.

"If the lobbyists can't buy influence from me, it gets difficult for them, because they have to override a veto," he said. "I can shut it down."