Why is Caitlyn Jenner operating for governor of California? Judging from her Wednesday night interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, she doesn’t have an entire lot of political perception into the state she desires to guide. So as an alternative of the standard political questions — like what she desires to do or how California may profit from a Jenner governorship — it is perhaps smarter to ponder what she stands to achieve from her candidacy.
Within the fashionable period, operating for workplace has turn into a job in itself, one that may repay in ways in which don’t have anything to do with politics. Mike Huckabee, who ran for president twice, used the elevated title recognition to earn a handsome living as a Fox News TV host, a profitable e book creator and a public speaker. Jesse Ventura crossed over from wrestling to political workplace (governor of Minnesota) and onto a profession in TV. Presently, Matthew McConaughey is, his critics say, juicing the gross sales of his new memoir with sturdy hints that he’ll run for Texas governor.
Jenner has an extended profession within the public eye checkered with some financial issues however her most up-to-date occupation, reality-show entertainer, has been a winner. She appeared in “Protecting Up With the Kardashians” from 2007 to 2016. It was a well-liked, profitable present. Based on TMZ, Jenner and household cut up a $40 million payout after they re-signed their deal for the “Kardashians” present in 2012 for 3 seasons (she’s returning for the present’s final season) and likewise had her personal two-season program, “I Am Cait” (2015-16).
Like many celebrities, Jenner makes look cash; once more in response to TMZ, her speaking fee rose from $25,000 to a rumored $100,000 after she came out as Caitlyn in 2015. However then the Covid-19 pandemic poured molasses into the engine of that gravy train.
Jenner wanted a new factor to remain within the public eye, and dealing the superstar angle is one thing she’s excelled at for the previous 45 years, ever since profitable the decathlon on the 1976 Olympics and was paid by Wheaties to look on its packing containers. She parlayed that title recognition into gigs as a sports activities commentator, an actor, a talk-show host, varied actuality roles, and most just lately, as a performer, albeit briefly, on “The Masked Singer.”
As for a politician? Though a lifelong Republican and a Trump supporter, the 71-year-old performer possesses a flimsy resume; she’s not a pure candidate any greater than she is a crooner. The good cash in California says she doesn’t have an opportunity to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom, who enjoys the assist of 56 percent of the California citizens. (Although the examples of Donald Trump, Al Franken, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sonny Bono counsel you’ll be able to’t be too positive.) Assuming a Jenner loss, although, let’s ponder the methods she may revenue from this new publicity.
One is literal revenue. California candidates can’t spend cash on themselves, however the state of California allows candidates large leeway on how they will spend their political donations, so a candidate can dwell off it and reward her mates with contracts and jobs. With former Trump marketing campaign supervisor Brad Parscale advising Jenner within the race, it’s simple to think about a well-financed political marketing campaign, and candidates can throw marketing campaign cash at election-night celebrations and different occasions; legal professional charges; vehicles, computer systems, meals and presents. They will purchase gratitude by donating to different candidates and charities; they will cowl worker salaries, well being care and meals and journey for the candidate and employees, as lengthy it conforms to IRS laws. It’s an actual money-go-round. The regulation even permits candidates to expense a babysitter! Enforcement of California’s marketing campaign finance guidelines is so lax that in case you’re discovered violating the regulation you may escape with out paying a fine.
However the actual lengthy sport in American politics now isn’t money — it’s fame. Consider Jenner’s run as a actuality present by different means, a thought we will assume has additionally occurred to her. As a substitute of a present on one nationwide channel, her marketing campaign is information, which suggests she’ll be operating on a number of nationwide and native channels. Social media will feast on her. She’s already peppering her 3.5 million Twitter followers with marketing campaign messages and her 1.4 million Fb mates with the identical. Even her marketing campaign controversies — opposing transgender youth sports activities in an ambush interview — can redound in her favor by boosting her profile greater nonetheless.
As a profession technique, this isn’t a cinch. Thad Kousser, a professor of political science on the College of California, San Diego, warns that operating for workplace generally is a high-risk funding for any individual like Jenner, as it could polarize a celeb’s base in opposition to her. That’s very true within the liberal setting of California. Kanye West’s presidential run definitely didn’t assist his profession. However purely as an attention-getting technique, it could work. “That calculus adjustments if we consider somebody wanting to construct their model,” Kousser says. “The coin of the realm in social media is engagement, and if what you are promoting is social media, then doing one thing that’s going to drive engagement will construct your model and construct your fortune.”
The Jenner run may simply spawn a actuality documentary if the cameras roll along with her on the hustings. It’ll virtually definitely present her with a subject for another book contract. And it may restart the side-hustle of her talking excursions. So what if the vast majority of the California citizens votes her down for her Republican views? It’s a giant nation with plenty of Republicans, plenty of curious individuals and hundreds of thousands of viewers who’ve been educated to surprise and care about what the Kardashians and Jenners are to this point. The publicity she creates out West will unfold throughout the nation. Jenner publicity is perhaps like Trump publicity — impervious in the long term to what we as soon as known as “unhealthy publicity.” She has little to lose in a gubernatorial marketing campaign and many to achieve.
And if she actually does develop a style for politics, a November loss for Jenner may set her up for a 2022 run for a congressional seat, the place the openings are quite a few and the cash flows a bit faster. California law prohibits a marketing campaign from paying a candidate for state workplace a wage, however federal regulation permits candidates for federal workplace to draw pay from marketing campaign coffers. The principle restrict is that the pay not exceed the lesser of the minimal annual wage of the workplace sought or the candidate’s earned revenue the earlier yr. The Heart for Public Integrity discovered that not less than 22 candidates paid themselves salaries within the 2017-2018 cycle.
When Jenner informed her daughters Kendall and Kylie that she was showing on “The Masked Singer,” they had been appalled. “They gave me this unusual look and stated ‘Dad, why are you doing this?’,” she told Us Weekly. Jenner ventured one thing about needing a problem, however we all know higher. Performances on the show don’t appear to pay much. The precise reward is publicity, with the contestant determining easy methods to convert that into money — a method Jenner has mastered and can proceed to excellent.
Jack Shafer is POLITICO’s senior media author.