NIMBYs Hired An Actor To Represent Them At A City Council Meeting
Prince Jordan Tyson, an underemployed actor from Beverly Hills, was paid $100 by the company Crowds On Demand to attend a Camarillo City Council Meeting and provide public comment against a proposed development he had no stake in, according to reporting work from NBC4. Tyson testified how the proposed development was bad for the community, representing himself as "a concerned citizen."
"It was scripted, they told me what to say," Tyson said to NBC4.
All of this happened back in December, after Adam Swart, a recent UCLA graduate, hired Tyson for his company. According to its website, Crowds On Demand does exactly what its name suggests; staging rallies and manufacturing supporters for causes and campaigns willing to pay the price.
Of course, one council meeting in Camarillo realistically doesn't matter that much, especially given Tyson came back with a guilty conscious and decided to tell the truth.
But Swart's interview with NBC4 points to an unsettling frequency with which 3rd parties pay him to sway public officials in one direction or another. When asked by NBC4 about how many city council meetings his company has done, Swart replies bluntly, "Lots."
Swart continued, explaining how he has "worked with dozens of campaigns for state officials, and 2016 presidential candidates."
Now obviously rent-a-crowd services are nothing new, and have in fact been around since the dawn of democracy. Swart could be lying in an attempt to build his business bigger and better. At the same time, literally renting a crowd to attend a political rally is perfectly legal.
As Swart himself said to The Atlantic last year, "Our business is about cultivating perception. It's basic marketing."
But basic marketing becomes thoroughly more contentious when it involves fraudulent statements in municipal public-comment sessions.
"Paying someone to go out there and make false representations to a city council is going to give rise to possible fraud claims, possible intentional interference with business relations claims, maybe defamatory statement claims," USC Law professor Lincoln Bandlow told NBC4.
Swart stands by his assessment that what he does is legal. As he told NBC4, "We're merely part of the democratic process."
Blame Citizens United.