No Iowa teenagers have ever made a more important political statement than siblings John and Mary Beth Tinker, who refused to remove anti-war black armbands and took their fight for freedom of expression in Des Moines public schools all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As for political pranks, it will be hard for anyone to top Brady Olson of Wallingford (Emmet County), who established a presidential campaign for his alter ego “Deez Nuts” and helped it go viral.
Less than a month after the Federal Election Commission processed forms for the Deez Nuts presidential candidacy, Public Policy Polling started using Deez Nuts as a proxy for a third-party candidate in a hypothetical race pitting Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. As an unknown quantity, Deez Nutz was a perfect generic independent candidate. In a contest with Clinton and Trump, he drew support from 8 percent of PPP’s respondents in Minnesota, 7 percent of PPP’s respondents in Iowa, and most recently, 9 percent of PPP’s respondents in North Carolina.
Last night, Ben Collins and Emily Shire broke the story for The Daily Beast: “Presidential Sensation Deez Nuts Is a 15-Year-Old Iowa Farm Boy.” I encourage you to click through and read the whole entertaining tale of how Brady Olson “gamed the FEC filing system.” Olson got the idea after seeing that someone had registered a cat in Kentucky as a Democratic candidate for president.
Olson reached out via e-mail to Public Policy Polling as Deez Nuts, sharing his filing statement and asking to be polled. PPP has polled joke candidates before. Earlier this year, to illustrate how unknown Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is outside his home state, PPP added Detroit Free Press reporter Paul Egan to a survey of Arizona Republicans. Sure enough, Egan’s favorable and unfavorable ratings were comparable to Snyder’s.
You may be wondering, as I did, why the FEC didn’t realize Deez Nuts does not exist. Collins and Shire report,
“Anybody can fill out a Form 2,” says FEC Deputy Press Officer Christian Hilland. “We do vetting, but it’s more about did they fill out the information correctly? Did they review the fields? It doesn’t speak to the authenticity of the individual who filed the claim.” […]
“We check for things like, ‘What election cycle are you running in?’ If one or more of those fields are missing, we have campaign finance analysts who review those reports,” says Hilland. “We send a letter to the listed address that asks for clarification or an amendment.”
Also, if he or she raises $5,000, whoever lives at 2248 450th Avenue is going to have to come up with a real name. Nuts will then have to file a Form 1, which requires a name, phone number and address that check out.
Apparently 2248 450th Street is a non-existent address. Olson’s father owns a business at 2250 450th Street, though. So if Olson wants to keep the Deez Nuts for president train rolling, he had better not cash any campaign contribution checks totaling more than $5,000.
Who knows where Deez Nuts will go from here, but Olson’s stunt will probably be long remembered in Iowa political circles.