Concerned Citizens Turn Out to Be Political Theater | NBC Southern California

Concerned Citizens Turn Out to Be Political Theater

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Political events often rely on public comment, but what if those concerned citizens were not there for the cause, but for cash? Marin Austin reports for the NBC4 News at 11 on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (Published Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016)

    In Camarillo, citizens aren't shy about expressing their opinions. But on a chilly Wednesday night in December, city officials say one man stood out.

    For nearly three minutes, Prince Jordan Tyson is on camera telling city leaders what he later admits, is a lie.

    In fact, Tyson, who is not from Camarillo, is a self described struggling actor from Beverly Hills and he now believes he was involved in a secretive new industry where actors are hired to try and sway public officials.

    In this case, a construction project in Camarillo he says he was hired to criticize.

    "It was scripted, they told me what to say," Tyson told NBC4.

    Some of those scripted lines, he says were provided by recent UCLA graduate Adam Swart, CEO of a company called Crowds on Demand, which will stage rallies and demonstrations for any almost candidate or cause.

    Swart says he has employed actors to sway city officials in meetings across the country.

    "I have worked with dozens of campaigns for state officials, and 2016 presidential candidates," Swart told NBC4, adding that he won't name any names.

    "I can't go in to detail... if I did, nobody would hire us."

    The California Political Practices Commission tells NBC4 political campaigns are required by law to report expenditures.

    But, public records indicate only one committee in the entire state has ever reported paying "Crowds On Demand", that committee is Six California's, the campaign to split California in to 6 different states.

    Organizers are on record for paying Swart's company $51,000 over 2 years, for signature gatherers.

    State officials say some campaigns and politicians who hire "Crowds On Demand"... and fail to report campaign expenditures, could be breaking the law.

    When asked if candidates pay him off the books, Swart says "it's no different from other industries where clients value discretion." He adds that politicians have known about the industry for some time.

    The New York Post reported in 2013 that Anthony Weiner has paid for phony supporters at campaign events, although Weiner denied that.

    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."

    Swart would not confirm to NBC4 that he hired Tyson or gave him lines, but says he has hired actors on multiple occasions to try and sway city officials across the country.

    And Tyson, who went back up to the podium 40 minutes after his initial statements that night in Camarillo, says he'll never do it again.

    "I was paid $100... It's extremely shady when you try to manipulate a system, a mayor, a city council."

    But Swart, who says there's never any lying involved, doesn't see a problem.

    "We are merely part of the democratic process if you ask me... it's the American political system, there's a lot at stake."

    Swart tells NBC4 he has 20,000 actors across the country and most are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

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