On July 12, the website kidrockforsenate.com launched, and with it a ton of breathless blog posts trying to suss out whether the musician born with the name Robert Ritchie would actually be campaigning against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2018. Although Ritchie insisted the site was real, journalists found that it was registered to Warner Bros. Records, which led to accusations that he was just using the idea of running for office as a way to sell T-shirts and caps that say "Kid Rock for US Senate." The fact that he hadn't registered with the Federal Election Commission lended further credence to the idea that it was all a big marketing ploy.
But now one of the most prominent watchdog groups in Washington says its legitimacy doesn't matter. According to campaign finance law, someone becomes a candidate when they either announce their candidacy or collect $5,000. It's unclear how much Ritchie has made from slinging swag on his site, but one could reasonably interpret his campaign as real at this point, according to the ethics complaint filed Friday by Common Cause.
"Regardless of whether Kid Rock says he's only exploring candidacy, he's selling 'Kid Rock for Senate' merchandise and is a candidate under the law," Paul S. Ryan, the group's vice president of policy and litigation, told the Hill. "This is campaign finance law 101."
The campaign finance rules in question are rarely enforced, but the lawsuit could at the very least force Ritchie to make it clear whether or not he's actually running, which is far from clear if you look at his website. It features him in aviator glasses posing next to a stuffed moose. Next to some hats and shirts sporting his would-be campaign logo flash a rotating set of messages like "Pimp of the Nation" and "Party to the People."
The website also asks, "Are you Scared?"
A message greeting visitors suggests that the Democrats are "shattin' in their pantaloons' right now…and rightfully so!" Although a poll that put Ritchie four points above Rabenow in August was quickly dismissed to be a likely hoax, the former sex-tape star managed to get the endorsement of former New York Governor George Pataki out of it. Meanwhile, politicians in Michigan are saying his "brand" might be the best hope for a GOP victory in Michigan next year.
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