Kid Rock‘s fake Senate campaign will not earn him real fines from the Federal Election Commission. You might recall that the Bullgod spent a good portion of last year making it seem like he was taking on Democrat Debbie Stabenow for a Senate seat in Michigan. Rock went so far as to create merch for the phony campaign and give what sounded like stump speeches at several shows before finally admitting, “fuck no I’m not running for Senate” on the Howard Stern satellite radio show.
Rock (born Robert Ritchie), revealed the obvious during that Oct. 24 interview: the jokey bid for office was an attempt to promote his 11th studio album, Sweet Southern Sugar. According to the Detroit Free Press, the FEC has declined to charge Rock with federal campaign violations following the “Kid Rock For US Senate” promotional push. The 3-1 decision last week involved the FEC dismissing a complaint from the Common Cause watchdog group, which argued that the rapper fudged candidate registration and financial reporting rules.
The FEC sided with Rock, saying the phony run was clearly “an artistic and commercial undertaking” tied to the album’s release and ensuing tour and that Ritchie was never a legitimate candidate; the FEC also cleared Rock’s label, Warner Bros., of violating campaign finance law by helping to sell “Kid Rock for US Senate” merch. Rock grabbed headlines across the country last summer when he rolled out a merch store for the fake run and made a series of speeches during shows.
The FEC decision notes that, in a notarized affidavit filed with his response to the FEC investigation, Rock said under oath that his run for office was a “concert promotion” and that he hadn’t taken “even the most basic steps to become a candidate,” never establishing a campaign committee, seeking ballot access, hiring campaign staff or open a campaign office, signed up to participate in a debate or solicited contributions.
“It might be one of the dumber things I’ve ever done, but it was a fuckin’ riot,” Rock told Billboard in November 2017. “Man, some of the shit that went on was unbelievable. It started to become real, which got a little scary; I mean I just don’t understand who looks at Kid Rock and goes, ‘Yeah, I see a senator there…’ But it was still a lot of fun in a lot of ways.”
Rock said his “campaign” was inspired by media reaction to a Michigan state legislator’s public suggestion that he run for Republican nomination for one of the state’s senate seats in 2018. “The press started having their little laugh with it, like they always do,” Rock recalled. “This time I thought, ‘Y’know, I’m gonna fuck with them a little bit.’ We said, ‘Alright, we’re gonna run with this,’ and of course I’m not running for Senate. We were leading everybody on.” That included social media pronouncements, campaign merchandise and faux speeches during his concerts. “Man, we had a blast. Every time we’d do something, just watching the press losing their shit over it was hilarious. There were times we couldn’t stop laughing.”
The FEC ruling notes that Rock and his manager said the “Kid Rock for US Senate” slogan expressed the idea that “middle America should not lose faith in our country and ourselves” and that it provides concertgoers with a “patriotic experience.”
Rock later donated about $122,000 from sales of merchandise to the CRNC Action voter-registration organization, an affiliate of the College Republican National Committee. A spokesperson for Rock could not be reached for comment at press time.
This article originally appeared in Billboard.