Monday, February 09, 2004

YOUR AD HERE: A Modest Proposal 

Truth in Advertising and Vice Versa

Corporate sponsors routinely splash their names all over whatever event or stadium they've ponied up the money to rename after themselves. It's as American as Mom's Apple Pie®. Yet, when it comes to sponsoring politicians corporations get all modest and bashful and hush-hush about which elected official is on their payroll.

It doesn't make any sense.

You'd think they would insist that the elected officials they've bought and paid for wear their brand. Athletes wear the gear of whatever shoe and equipment company pays them to. Right up until they get arrested for having done something unseemly, after which they're dropped faster than, well, an athlete endorser arrested for having done something unseemly.

Shouldn't politicians be held to the same standard of corporate sponsorship ethics as professional athletes? We here at the ant farmer's almanac think so.

We propose the following: Anyone running for elected office should have to wear a NASCAR-style jump suit, emblazoned with patches displaying the names, logos, trademarks, etc., of all their contributors. Not individuals who back them but the companies and political action committees who've given them money.

These patches would be sized and placed proportionately to the amount of the contribution. The biggest contributors' names would be larger and placed prominently enough — chest level, say — to always be visible above any lectern or other object(s) that the candidate might be standing behind. This would also give cameramen the option of shooting the backsides of candidates just for the fun of seeing the smaller contributors' names on the guy's butt.

Once elected, the officeholder would have to wear the jump suit during business hours and to any and all public functions and appearances, at any speaking engagement anywhere, any time and especially at sessions of whatever legislative body he is a part of.

The advantages are obvious. First, everyone would know who paid to get this guy in office and, therefore, who's holding his leash. He can deny that there's any connection between that pharmaceutical company's $100,000 campaign "contribution" and his vote against a bill allowing manufacture of a generic version of that company's biggest seller, and maybe there isn't one, but the public will have some valuable insight into his thinking process. Many of the athletes who wear-for-pay don't appear in any traditional advertisments for the brand or even claim it makes them peform better; it's implied and fans are left to draw their own conclusions.

It doesn't have to be all negative, either. Who wouldn't tend to like a politician sporting, say, the Coca-Cola logo, front and center. Everybody likes Coke. Have a congressman and smile! Rival companies could play out their competition on the floor of the Senate: "Mr. Chairman, point of order! As the senator from PepsiCo I take exception to the preceding statement that 'Things go better with Coke!' and move to strike that remark from the record. . ."

It might even make C-Span almost watchable.

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