Life Imitates The Daily Show

Columbus Alive | July 8, 2005
A recent episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart featured an interview with porn actress Mary Carey and her producer, Mark Kulkis. They chatted about his title as honorary chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s business advisory council, and their attendance at the annual black tie President’s Dinner in Washington, D.C.

The laughter died the next morning when the NRCC, a fundraising organization whose mission is to help Republicans get elected to the U.S. House, called me at home.

In a pre-recorded message, New York Congressman and NRCC chair Tom Reynolds explained that “As a business leader, you are what makes America go.” I was being invited to join the business advisory council myself, which would give me “a chance to speak out” and to “meet with and provide input with business movers and shakers.”

A live woman got on the line to say that President Bush and House Republicans would like to build on the successes of Bush’s first term. There would be no time commitment on my part, and if I agreed to participate I would have my name listed as a supporter of the Republican business agenda in a full-page Wall Street Journal ad and receive an invitation to the next President’s Dinner, in addition to a commemorative copy of the ad, a gavel decorated with gold trim (“Just like they use in the House,” she enthused) and a picture of the president suitable for dartboards—um, framing. All this for only a $300 or $500 contribution to the NRCC that could be split into two easy payments.

What could I possibly have in common with the producer and glamorous star of Fiesta Island Party Girls and Lick My Balls? Like Kulkis, from the government’s point of view I’m in the film business. I’m listed on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website as the contact for the Columbus Film Collective, the non-profit started to oversee the Deep Focus Film Festival. The site is one of several ways the NRCC could’ve pegged me as a “top business leader” and potential donor (the caller wouldn’t say where they got my contact information).

The NRCC has been using similar you’re-so-special tactics, concocted by Akron-based telemarketing consultants InfoCision, for about seven years. Since campaign finance laws tightened and the political fundraising focus shifted to “hard” money—small contributions from a wide base of individuals—a lot of cash has been spent by House Republicans on this approach, and it’s paid off handsomely. About 6,000 people attended the last President’s Dinner with Carey and Kulkis, at five grand a couple. Chances are no one else had publicly expressed a desire to do both Hannity and Colmes.

Glancing at its website, the NRCC appears to spend its funds mostly on slagging the opponent (12 out of the 13 press releases on view cover Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s failings). But a list of past, crow-worthy Republican accomplishments can be found as well. It includes the successful passage of stricter laws against telemarketing.

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