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‘Making jokes and doing funny things for attention is kind of our superpower.’
One of the most offensive card games ever made is throwing its hat into one of the most contentious elections in United States history.
Last week, the twisted geniuses behind Cards Against Humanity launched a fundraiser tied to the 2016 presidential election. They created two packs of cards, one with a drawing of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the other bearing the likeness of Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“At the end of this promotion,” a post on the company’s website explained, “Cards Against Humanity will tally up the sales of both packs, and depending on which pack gets more support, we will donate all the money in support of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
By Monday morning, the project had raised over $300,000 according to a counter on the site showing the total haul. It was ticking upward by the minute. What the company plans on doing with that money is ambitious—they’re starting their own super PAC.
The primary goal of this PAC, as Cards Against Humanity co-founder Max Temkin explained to the Daily Dot, is simple: “drive Trump nuts.”
“Donald Trump operates outside of the normal parameters of American politics … He advocates for unconstitutional, illegal, dangerous, and hateful polices that frighten us,” Temkin said. “We feel like making jokes about Donald Trump and doing what we can to politically organize against him are a moral imperative.”
“We feel like making jokes about Donald Trump and doing what we can to politically organize against him are a moral imperative.”
Temkin has a background working on political campaigns, so actually setting up his own formal organization didn’t seem overwhelmingly daunting. He’s working with a firm in Washington, D.C., to help the new venture comply with Federal Election Committee rules—even though the regulatory body tasked with policing how political money is spent is too mired in partisan gridlock to do much policing of anything at the moment. The next step is hiring a small staff to work on things like press outreach, media buys, and graphic design.
The Cards Against Humanity game traffics in performative offensiveness—a skill Temkin hopes to bring into the world of politics. While the super PAC will also work on get-out-the-vote operations in swing state college towns, the primary mission will be creating ads designed to offend precisely one person: Trump himself.
“Trump takes himself terribly seriously, and that’s hilarious. He is an egomaniac with zero self-discipline, and many campaign sources have reported that he spends large portion of his days brooding over bad press and shouting at his staff about it,” Temkin said. “I’ve been on the other end of that campaign … working for distractible, thin-skinned, obsessive candidates and those elections are a nightmare. They hemorrhage staff and lose media cycles to trivia. Our goal is to drive Trump nuts with that stuff and capture as much of his attention as possible. Making jokes and doing funny things for attention is kind of our superpower, our team is really, really good at that.”
A good example of this type of provocation working wonders is the saga of Khizr and Ghazala Khan. The Khans lost their son, a U.S. Army captain, to an Iraqi suicide bomb in 2004. During the Democratic National Convention held in Philadelphia last month, Khizr excoriated Trump from the stage while Ghazala stood at his side. When Khizr took a copy of the U.S. Constitution out of his pocket and asked if Trump had ever read the nation’s founding document, the moment went viral.
“Trump takes himself terribly seriously, and that’s hilarious.”
Instead of simply letting the media cycle around Khan’s attack play its course, Trump couldn’t help but jump into the fray himself—personally attacking the family and suggesting Ghazala’s Muslim faith precluded her from speaking. Ghazala responded with a blistering op-ed in the Washington Post insisting the reason she stayed silent onstage was due to her inability to hold back tears when speaking publicly about her dead son.
The entire back-and-forth threw Trump off-message for days. One poll showed that 34 percent of Americans were less likely to vote for Trump after his attacks on the Khans.
The Cards Against Humanity super PAC will be called the Nuisance Committee, a name that Temkin says comes from a chapter in his own family’s history. During World War II, Temkin says his grandfather flew dozens of combat missions on a B-24 bomber over Nazi Germany before being shot down and spending about a year in a POW camp. He joined with a group of other Jewish POWs in the camp, Temkin said, who were frustrated about being sidelined in the fight against Adolf Hitler.
“They formed a group called ‘the Nuisance Committee’ to covertly disrupt operations in the camp and force the Germans to divert increasing resources away from the front lines and into the prison,” Temkin said. “They came up with little protests, pranks, and daily annoyances that drove the Nazis insane. So that’s the name we’re going with.”
This effort may be aimed at keeping Trump out of the White House, but it’s far from agnostic about which candidate it is actively supporting. A note on the site warns that anyone interested in throwing their support behind Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein should “just skip the middleman and vote for Trump.”
The expansion pack that forms the basis of the fundraiser includes set-up cards like “The top Google autocomplete results for Barack Obama: Barack Obama height. Barack Obama net worth. Barack Obama ________” and “When you go to the polls on Tuesday, remember: a vote for me is a vote for _______,” with punchline cards like “Letting Bernie Sanders rest his world-weary head on your lap” and “The systemic disenfranchisement of black voters.”
While independent groups apart from political parties and the campaign infrastructures operated by the candidates themselves have long played a role in U.S. electoral politics, super PACs represent something relatively new. In the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, the court held that outside groups could spend unlimited amount of money on elections as long as they didn’t coordinate directly with campaigns on the specific ways that money would be spent. As a result, there’s been a rapid growth in the use of organizations called super PACs—super political action committees—to influence elections.
Super PACs spent over $345 million during the 2014 midterm election. Much of that spending is opaque because deep-pocketed donors often used a multitude of different front groups to make the paper trail between donors and the ultimate source of their donations difficult, if not impossible, to follow.
Temkin said, once the election is over and done with, the Nuisance Committee plans on shuttering the super PAC and opening up the books to give the world some insight into how a super PAC actually works.
“Traditionally, “ he explained, “our fans love to see the ‘making of’ notes when we do something crazy like this.”
Correction: The amount of money that’s been raised is more than $300,000.
Aaron Sankin is a former Senior Staff Writer at the Daily Dot who covered the intersection of politics, technology, online privacy, Twitter bots, and the role of dank memes in popular culture. He lives in Seattle, Washington. He joined the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2016.