COLUMBIA — To Jonathan Sessions, a national crisis is going unnoticed: the lack of bearded men in politics.
In response, Sessions, a member of the Columbia School Board, has co-founded Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy, or BEARD PAC. The super PAC was officially filed with the Federal Elections Committee last week and has the goal of raising unlimited funding for politicians with worthy beards.
Super PACs, or independent expenditure-only committees, can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money for political candidates, according to the Federal Elections Committee website.
"There has been an obvious decline in popularity of beards for politicians," he said. "My generation has become more accepting of beards as a grooming choice, and that's a change I would like to see reflected in politics."
The last bearded president, Benjamin Harrison, was elected 125 years ago. This shows an obvious stigma against facial hair, Sessions said.
"Even in TV shows or movies, the bad guy usually has a beard and the good guy is clean-shaven." Sessions said. "Our goal is to suggest that sometimes Prince Charming can have a lavish beard, too."
When determining what candidates to endorse, a crucial question is what constitutes a beard. Mustaches are out, but goatees count, Sessions said. A beard review committee is being formed to evaluate beards on a case-by-case basis, he said.
"If a candidate has the dedication to grow and maintain a quality beard, that shows a dedication to quality service," Sessions said. "Now, we're not endorsing every bearded candidate, but the right bearded candidates who can best serve the population they represent."
Those in support of the bearded cause can donate on the PAC's website, and donations are coming in from around the nation, he said.
A new website and endorsement list will be launched at the start of campaign season, or early fall, he said. In the meantime, the PAC will support bearded candidates in city councils or local races.
Though beards are the PAC's niche, Sessions said, that does not mean they are anti-women or even anti-mustaches.
"We are fully in support of women in office," Sessions said. "That's just not our focus. We're solely pro-beard."
Sessions and co-founder Andy Shapero, long-time beard supporters, have been thinking about starting BEARD PAC for a decade, Sessions said.
"I've had my beard continuously for about eight years," Sessions said. "It's hard to date, because I feel like it's always been with me."
So, are these guys serious?
"We're as serious as the opportunity to raise unlimited funds and spend them toward campaigning with little accountability," Sessions said with a chuckle.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.