Politics

Marianne Williamson Doesn’t Want to Be the New Age Candidate. But Look Who’s Working for Her.

Marianne Williamson gestures while speaking from a podium.
Marianne Williamson in Columbia, South Carolina, on June 22.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Ever since launching her presidential campaign, author Marianne Williamson has bristled at any suggestion that she is 2020’s woo-woo candidate. In February, she asked the Washington Post to not refer to her as a “New Age guru.” In an interview with the Hill this week, she said, “People are so invested in creating this false narrative about me as the ‘crystal lady,’ ‘wacky new-age nutcase.’ If you really think about it, I must be doing something right that they’re so scared.” New Age may be the language Williamson has spoken to voters—her phrase “dark psychic force” was a viral sensation at Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, she’s signed campaign emails with “Namaste,” and she criticizes the Trump administration in terms of collective trauma—but she doesn’t want the spiritual movement’s baggage.

Yet Williamson’s attempt to distance herself only goes so far. A survey of her campaign’s Federal Election Commission filings reveals that, in addition to the professional political operatives she employs, Williamson has used her more than $3 million campaign haul to hire an assortment of marketers, videographers, consultants, and advertising agencies that have traditionally been associated with New Age movements and spiritual causes.
As far as campaign expenditures go, well, it’s a bit of a trip.

Presidential candidates often recruit contractors and staffers with whom they’ve worked before, and Williamson, whose claim to fame is a series of metaphysical self-help books, has spent much of her life as a New Age fixture. Many of the firms Williamson is hiring now for her campaign previously provided support for her classes and talks on spirituality. For example, Williamson has retained campaign consulting services from Wendy Zahler, the director of business affairs for the Agape International Spiritual Center, a trans-denominational Beverly Hills congregation that borrows practices from religious science. Zahler previously served as Williamson’s business affairs director and assisted with projects like the “Enchanted Love Workshop: Building the Inner Temple of the Sacred and the Romantic.” She also worked on Williamson’s unsuccessful 2014 run for Congress in California. So far, the campaign has paid Zahler more than $61,000.

Williamson also sought videography services from A Light Picture, a digital media production company that previously helped produce the $149 on-demand version of the candidate’s “Aphrodite Training” course on “aligning power and vulnerability, masculine and feminine, work and romance with the sacred temple of a woman’s heart.” A Light Picture’s website quotes author and “spirit junkie” Gabby Bernstein praising the firm for being the “most professional, divine, and creative group I have ever worked with” and for fostering “a super high vibe collaboration.” The campaign has paid the company more than $20,000.

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Another videography company working for the campaign, Streaming for the Soul, has an even deeper spiritual focus. The firm’s website appears to be a Netflix-inspired library for video series with titles like “Psychic Mediumship” and “The Truth About Vaccines,” which is a 2½-hour anti-vaccine panel discussion. There’s also the series “Ann and the Angels,” an 84-episode course on how to talk to angels for help with things like “parking spaces,” “life purpose,” and “how to make more money.” Based on posts from the company’s Facebook page, it looks like Streaming for the Soul has been partly providing audiovisual support to livestream Williamson’s campaign talks. The company, which received a little more than $2,000 from the campaign, did not respond to Slate’s inquiry.

Williamson has spent more than $88,000 so far on “digital consulting” from Magic, a firm based in Boulder, Colorado, whose motto is “Digital marketing with soul (and ROI).” The agency specializes in crafting social media advertising and search engine optimization strategies for clients dedicated to “elevating consciousness, enhancing health and wellbeing, or regenerating the planet.” (To be fair, non–New Age marketing agencies also tend to get a little Age of Aquarius in their mission statements.) Shortly before contracting for Williamson’s campaign, Magic helped with the marketing for the ultimately successful ballot initiative to decriminalize magic mushrooms in Denver. The company’s website notes that the staff, also known as the “magic tribe,” is “prone to freestyle rap battles, taking meetings in onesies, and spontaneous mid-day dance breaks.”

In an interview with the Freedom Culture podcast, Magic’s founder and CEO Marcus McNeill explained that he had started out working in sales for a company owned by New Age personality Deepak Chopra, a friend of Williamson’s. He later recounts how he became involved in the Williamson campaign: “It came through very spontaneously; it came through in a magical way. I got an email from the presidential candidate campaign director of Marianne Williamson. … I believe that if she were to be elected, it would really change the world.” McNeill did not respond to Slate’s inquiries.

The campaign hired a photographer who previously shot a Spirituality & Health magazine cover featuring Williamson ($2,700), had the band Nahko and Medicine for the People perform at a kickoff event (around $1,000 in travel fees), and sought website help from Mighty Networks, a social media platform popular among New Age businesses (nearly $10,000). The campaign also paid $400 in rental fees to the RYK Yoga and Meditation Center in Las Vegas, stopped by the Raj Ayurveda Health Spa in Fairfield, Iowa, for some small purchases, and made a $500 donation to the Center for Spiritual Living in Las Vegas.

On top of all of this, Williamson has recruited actual seasoned political operatives for her campaign. As Washingtonian reports, two former White House staffers who worked for Al Gore and a former assistant secretary of state for Massachusetts have been coordinating Williamson’s 20-person nationwide staff from D.C. Yet, many of her other hiring choices have been rather unconventional compared with those of other candidates. When your campaign’s concerns are both electoral and spiritual, you need personnel to match.