A new super PAC aiming to defeat Hillary Clinton has set itself a tough goal: rallying support among potential swing-state voters who don’t watch TV, don’t use the Internet, and prefer not to participate in mainstream politics at all.
Amish PAC bills itself as “the first Super PAC dedicated to getting plain voters to the polls.” “Plain” is a catchall term referring to the Amish, Mennonites, and similar communities that eschew most modern conveniences in favor of a strict interpretation of the Bible.
According to its website, Amish PAC’s goal is to defeat Hillary Clinton by getting conservative Amish voters to the polls in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Nearly 70,000 Amish live in each state. The Super PAC expects to spend about $41,000 on a six-month ad campaign leading up to Election Day. Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts on political campaigns, as long as they’re not overtly coordinating with any particular candidate.
The Arlington, Virginia-based group was started by a trio of conservative political operatives. Ben Walters worked on a PAC for Ben Carson’s former primary campaign. Taylor Swindle was an aide to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Ben King, a former member of the Amish community, was also a Carson fundraiser. He lives in Lancaster County, Pa., and is the “eyes and ears” of the organization, Walters said.
“There was something about Ben Carson that really motivated and excited the Amish and, from my observations, really paved the way for what might be a surge in Amish voter participation in this upcoming election,” Walters said.
But the soft-spoken, deeply religious retired neurosurgeon cuts a very different figure from the GOP’s likely nominee. Selling Donald Trump as the candidate of choice for a plain-living, deeply spiritual people seems a tall order.
“The thing about Trump is that the Amish see him as a capable businessman—someone with business savvy, someone who’s going to get government regulation off their backs and lower taxes. I think they find all those qualities really appealing,” Walters said.
The group faces other challenges. George W. Bush visited the Lancaster area during the 2004 campaign, but most conservative candidates and their supporters have bypassed so-called “Old Order” communities. They are too small and too hard to reach to justify the expense and effort.
The Amish avoid radio, TV, or the Internet, so all outreach has to be via newspaper ads or billboards. Most Amish choose not to vote, preferring to abstain from secular politics.
“It’s kind of like going back in time a little bit,” Walters said.
This story was updated with details from Ben Walters.