Federal Agency to God: Prove You're Real

The Federal Election Commission has a few questions for God, Satan, and the Ghost of Ronald Reagan, all of whom have filed paperwork to run for office this election cycle. 

This implausible scenario is part of a policy aimed at dealing with an influx of suspicious-sounding presidential candidate names. It’s relatively easy to register as a presidential candidate, and during the 2016 election plenty of people seem to be taking advantage of that. As a result, the federal agency is now asking whoever filed paperwork to run for president under the names “God,” “Satan,” and “Ronald Reagan’s Ghost” to prove they actually exist.

“It has come to the attention of the Federal Election Commission that you may have failed to include an accurate candidate name,” a letter sent by the commission to “H. Majesty Satan Lord of Underworld Prince of Darkness!” in College Station, Texas dated August 31, 2016 reads. “The Commission requires the filing to be true, correct and complete,” the letter warns, adding that “knowingly and willfully making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation to a federal government agency, including the Federal Election Commission, is punishable.”

A wide array of individuals listed as presidential candidates in the agency directory don’t seem like they could possibly be real. To name a few: Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker, Jean-Luc Picard, Captain Crunch, Queen Elsa, and Francis Underwood. Several of these supposed candidates have received letters asking for proof of existence. It’s one thing for a federal agency to demand proof of existence from a fictional character. Asking God and Satan to prove that they are real seems far more metaphysical.

"This election cycle has seen a huge increase in the number of fake presidential candidates filing paperwork with the FEC," said Brett Kappel, a campaign-finance lawyer and partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Akerman LLP. "In previous election cycles the FEC would get a few dozen such filings.  This cycle they have received hundreds."

It’s hard to say how much time and effort the agency wastes sifting through paperwork intended as a prank. Broadly speaking, the FEC is tasked with regulating money in politics, a responsibility that includes looking into and, in theory, taking action when campaign finance violations occur. But the agency is often criticized as relatively toothless. Agency commissioner Ann Ravel has even gone so far as to say that the agency is “worse than dysfunctional.”

God, Satan and Ronald Reagan’s Ghost have 30 days to respond with proof of their existence, or their candidacy will be removed from the agency website. “If the information you submitted … is, to the best of your knowledge and belief, true, correct, and complete, please file a response to confirm this,” the letter to Satan Lord of Underworld Prince of Darkness reads. “Failure to respond within 30 calendar days of the date of this correspondence will result in the Commission removing your FEC Form 2 and related committee filings.”

What else do we know about these elusive candidates? “God” originally registered as a Republican. Satan also opted to register as a Republican. Ronald Reagan’s Ghost meanwhile is registered as an Independent. Donald Trump often talks up the fact that he’s a political outsider, but it’s hard to imagine what could be more of an outsider than being undead, a deity, or a devil.

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