In 2010, Arthur Robinson, a research chemist, decided to run for Congress in southern Oregon. Robinson, now 73, was not your average candidate. In a lab on a sheep ranch in the Siskiyou Mountains, he’s spent the last couple of years collecting thousands of vials of human urine. Funded by private donors, he claims his work holds the key to extending the human life span and wresting control of medicine from what he calls the “medical-industrial-government complex.” He has some unusual ideas. According to his monthly newsletter, nuclear radiation can be good for you and climate science is a hoax. In his spare time, he buys unwanted pipe organs from churches and reassembles them on his property.
Robinson was new to politics and had little money of his own. The Democratic incumbent, Peter DeFazio, had held office for more than 20 years and easily outspent him. But six weeks before the election, a barrage of ads hit the airwaves, portraying DeFazio as a puppet of the Democratic leadership. Robinson lost, but the $600,000 in ads helped him turn in the best performance by a Republican in the district in decades.