In February 2009, businessman Barry Hinckley gave a speech at a conference in Las Vegas, running through numerous “out of the box” ideas to “help you get ahead.” Among them: run for office. Even if you lose, he said, “you get tons of free PR.”
Video of the speech surfaced in the Rhode Island press this week because, well, Hinckley is now running for office himself. Hinckley, a co-founder of Bullhorn Software, an online recruiting software company, is challenging incumbent Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D). (Hinckley’s considered a big underdog in the race.)
“This is one of my wackier ideas but — run for office,” Hinckley told the audience in the 2009 speech, video of which was obtained by WPRI. “I have some great stories about friends that have done this. And even if you lose, running for office, you actually win, because you get tons of free PR.”
Hinckley said that races for local posts, like school board, city council, or mayor, aren’t “that expensive, because they’re not highly contested.” Plus, he said, “you can actually raise money from friends, coworkers, people that support your candidacy.”
“And run on a jobs platform,” Hinckley — who is now running on a jobs platform — said. “‘I will create jobs.’ Right? That will get free press.”
To illustrate his point, Hinckley told a story about an old friend of his.
“A woman named Kirsten Gillibrand was a very close friend during high school,” Hinckley said. “Two years ago she ran for Congress. U.S. Congress. She said, ‘what the heck, I’m in upstate New York, it’s not that highly contested, I’m well spoken, etc.’ She ran for office, and being lifelong friend, I supported her. And no one really thought she’d win, because she’s a Democrat in a Republican stronghold. And sure enough she won. And she didn’t spend any of her own money, it was all funded by contributions. Then she won re-election again. And then sure enough Hillary Clinton becomes Secretary of State and now [Gillibrand] takes her place. So here’s a woman that three years ago was a mom and a lawyer, working hard, a working mom — during her first term she had another baby, so she’s a mother of two very young kids — and now she’s one of the most powerful people in the country. So it is very possible to do stuff like this. So run for office, I highly recommend it. A lot of free PR. She’s for life, done. She never has to worry about anything. She is a very famous person.”
Hinckley defended the speech in an interview with WPRI on Monday. He said he had been advocating for public service.
“I took the approach of letting these businessmen and women know there is actually a reward at the end of the rainbow even if it didn’t work out for you,” Hinckley said. “And that reward was exposure.”
Hinckley also said his current campaign isn’t “free.”
“No one would put themselves through the amount of work and money — this is not free,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of my own money, hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it’s not free PR.”
Hinckley’s campaign manager, Patrick Sweeney, meanwhile, told The Providence Journal that “Barry’s message was clear … we need new people, with new ideas running for office.”
Watch the video, via The Providence Journal (Hinckley’s political advice starts at 6:50):
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com