Last December, the town council in Camarillo, a small town in southern California, a man called Prince Jordan Tyson stood up and delivered a three minute speech as a "concerned citizen" about a planned construction project before the council.
Tyson is not a concerned citizen of Camarillo: he's a struggling actor from Beverly Hills, who was paid $100 to deliver a scripted position from the podium while misrepresenting himself as a local, sincere citizen.
Tyson worked for Adam Swart, a recent UCLA grad, who runs a company called "Crowds on Demand," which hires actors to attend politicians' campaign meetings, and to deliver scripted dialog in the guise of concerned citizens. Swart says that he has been paid by "dozens of campaigns for state officials, and 2016 presidential candidates" whom he won't name, because if he "did, nobody would hire us."
Swart admits that candidates pay him "off the books," but "it's no different from other industries where clients value discretion." He says he has 20,000 actors on his payroll, and that most sign NDAs.
He says he's "part of the democratic process."
And last year, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump paid actors $50 to wear T-shirts and carry signs for his campaign launch. Trump denied this.
But, beyond just paying people to show up, Swart says sometimes clients want more.
"Yes, I have scripted it on some occasions," he said.
Hiring actors is not illegal. Although, entertainment law attorney and USC professor Lincoln Bandlow says telling those actors what to do and say could lead to lawsuits, if someone feels harmed.
"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."
Concerned Citizens Turn Out to Be Political Theater
[Marin Austin/NBC LA]
(via Super Punch)