Petition Submitted To Require Congress To Wear The Logos Of Their Corporate Donors

from the the-esteemed-Congressman,-brought-to-you-in-part-by... dept

The idea that members of Congress should wear the logos of their corporate sponsors is as old as the internet itself, but it appears that someone’s finally doing something about it. (Or at least bringing it to the attention of the current administration where it can be handed a set of talking points.) A petition at “We the People” requests that Congress members switch over to NASCAR-style representation, and wear their “affections” literally on their sleeves.

Since most politicians’ campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals, it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company’s logo, or individual’s name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate’s clothing at all public appearances and campaign events. Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those “sponsor’s” names during all official duties and visits to constituents. The size of a logo or name would vary with the size of a donation. For example, a $1 million dollar contribution would warrant a patch of about 4″ by 8″ on the chest, while a free meal from a lobbyist would be represented by a quarter-sized button. Individual donations under $1000 are exempt.

This may seem as frivolous as requesting the construction of a Death Star or the immediate expulsion of Brits who criticize the NRA, but the underlying frustration with today’s political world is evident. Many Americans are experiencing the sinking feeling that their future is in the hands of corporations and their purchased legislators, cutting them out of the loop. The periodic call to “throw the bums out” either goes unanswered or just results in a new set of bums

Holding legislators accountable often seems impossible, so if you can’t beat ’em, shame ’em. If members of Congress are willing to capitulate to the highest bidder(s), the least they can do is display their true loyalties for all to see. The application of corporate logos would make it obvious at a glance who might be influencing elected officials’ stances on various issues. As enjoyable as it would be to see this put into action, the idea itself comes wrapped in its own set of problems.

To begin with, this would place entirely too much importance on the visible logos (or lack thereof), replacing informed opinions with snap judgements. Mistaken conclusions would be drawn. A relatively logo-free Congressman would be perceived as a righteous lawmaker in a sea of purchased sinners, no matter the voting record or moral stature. The wrong conclusion could also be drawn in the opposite direction, turning a legislator’s eerie resemblance to a stock car into a maze of twisty corporate conspiracy theories, all alike. Or something in between, like this hypothetical: A Congressman covered in logos of corporations that employ hundreds in his district — sell-out or man of the people?

Another problem is that no matter what dollar amount is used as the cutoff line, donors will still find a way to get their money into the right hands while avoiding turning “their” legislator into a logoed farce. If the loophole isn’t big enough to allow the (relatively) easy flow of money, the law will be amended until it is. No representative wants to look like they’re corporate property and very few corporations are willing to roll on ungreased wheels.

Another issue is the distraction factor. If implemented, our already contentious partisan politics will devolve even further, resulting in pointless attacks based on who’s wearing what corporate logo, or how many they’re wearing. I firmly believe a legislative branch suffering from vapor lock is preferable to one that feels a day without an introduced bill is a wasted day, but sooner or later some important stuff needs to get done. It took our legislators four years to pass a “yearly” budget. Delays like this hurt actual taxpayers. I can only imagine how much longer that particular ordeal would have continued if logo-related arguments were added to the mix.

That brings us to the ultimate problem with this petition: a huge conflict of (self) interest. The very people petitioners want covered in logos are the same people who’d prefer their benefactors remain hidden. Not coincidentally, they’re also the people that introduce, vote on and pass laws. It’s damn near impossible to push a bill through Congress when a majority of legislators oppose it. And no matter how entertaining this would be, bypassing the legislative process to get this enacted (executive order?) screws with the underlying checks and balances, something no one should be encouraging.

All that being said, I’d still like to see the petition hit the “RESPONSE NEEDED” mark. If nothing else, it will send a message to the administration (and our lawmakers) that the American public views its representatives as little more than water carriers for big business and special interest groups. I’d also like to see the administration’s response to this message. Most likely, it will point out that this information is readily available at the government’s own Federal Election Commission site, not to mention informational powerhouses like (whose site is much easier to search and navigate). It may also express concern over a loss of “decorum” should this be implemented, what with serviceable dark suits replaced with day-glo blazers covered in corporate logos.

If I had my way, I’d select a third option: have the petition be submitted as a bill and watch legislators go insane trying to take it seriously (“The public has spoken!”) while simultaneously finding some way to torpedo the legislation without looking completely irate (“Stupid public! Why won’t it shut up?!?”). A few days or weeks of logo-related panic would possibly bump C-SPAN ratings into the single digits and warm my cold, cynical heart ever so slightly.

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Comments on “Petition Submitted To Require Congress To Wear The Logos Of Their Corporate Donors”

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bob (profile) says:

Why doesn't TechDirt wear the logos of its sponsors?

Has Google been donating since they sponsored that journalism conference designed to try to get the reporters to work for free so Google could continue to sell ads? Who is paying the freight around here? We would love some disclosure!

And how about the EFF, TechDirt’s darling partner in the plan to astroturf for the billionaires at Big Search. It would be laughable to see the EFF start sporting Google logos when they sent out their press releases. That would be really cute.

And for the record, I’m not employed by any of the big media companies. I’m just a big believer in artists and their right to choose what happens to their work product.

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Why doesn't TechDirt wear the logos of its sponsors?

A parody article? That’s your proof?

And if Techdirt is funded by Google, then how do you explain the articles it features that criticize Google and call it out for its stupid behavior? Shouldn’t the authors not do that due to the risk of losing their funding?

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Why doesn't TechDirt wear the logos of its sponsors?

@ “And if Techdirt is funded by Google, then how do you explain the articles it features that criticize Google and call it out for its stupid behavior?”

First, you need to understand the age-old “loyal opposition” technique, by which shills are set up to make token protests to give the appearance of vital discussion. But perhaps you watch professional wrestling and believe the drama presented is real, when in fact it’s scripted.

2nd, I’ve NEVER seen Mike hold Google to account for anything important, let alone be worried by what it does full time EVERY DAY: track the web activities of hundreds of millions of people. Instead we get what I regard as puff pieces, always showing Google favorably. The worst criticism from Mike that I recall is the recent dropping of “Reader”, and that’s simply reporting a fact that everyone else had already covered.

But as to how Techdirt gets indexed by Google within 5 minutes as I found just today, it’s left to conjecture. If Mike would just let loose of HOW to get a site noticed when only re-writing content that everyone else has already covered, he’d be of some use: inquiring minds would like to know how to within 5 minutes get a minor story to come up out of 1.7 million results on Google’s first page.

However, to your obvious rejoinder: YES, we critics are left to just conjecture and innuendo. That’s the problem with secret organizations such as Google: you can’t even clear them because they’re secretive. But cuts both ways: you don’t know any more, just blithely assume that they’re good guys. Remove that assumption and what have YOU got?

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Why doesn't TechDirt wear the logos of its sponsors?

Pro wrestling? Wha? Can’t you go a single post without trying to insult someone? I mean seriously, dude, lemme level with you for a sec.

See, people detest and confound you because you’re an asshole. Ninety-nine percent of the time you come across as a petty, abusive, dishonest, desperate noisemaker. Nothing about you suggests that there’s ever a hint of truth to your arguments, so whenever you do happen to have a good point, it gets lost because your reputation precedes you. Your points about conspiracy would be well-taken, but the more you clamor on about conspiracies at Techdirt, the less I am convinced that they exist. After all, why should I trust you when you never act trustworthy?

I think it’s safe to say that there is no greater conspiracy, or, if there is, then the people here are not party to it. I love the idea that people like Mike Masnick act as media hitmen for hire; I love the drama and the romance of it. But it’s not mystical or sinister; it’s more like “media physics”. You put out something that the community disagrees with, and then (as by some natural inclination of the universe) they respond to it. It’s ok to disagree with you, right?

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Why doesn't TechDirt wear the logos of its sponsors?

And for the record, I’m not employed by any of the big media companies. I’m just a big believer in artists and their right to choose what happens to their work product.

Oh, so you’re in favor of breaking up the big media corporations that consistently screw over artists with ‘Hollywood accounting’ and one sided recording contracts?

bob (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why doesn't TechDirt wear the logos of its sponsors?

Sure. Absolutely. I tell people to be careful what they sign and many sign the contracts anyway. They would rather be stars for a few years than get what you might consider a “fair share”. And that’s entirely rational because there aren’t any companies offering what you might consider fair. The people have a choice between nothing and what you consider to be a bad contract.

If you really think that the big companies are screwing over people, just start your own record company and pay what you consider to be fair. The artists will run to you, right? Let’s see you do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Why doesn't TechDirt wear the logos of its sponsors?

When big media relinquishes their stolen government established monopoly privileges over broadcasting spectra and cableco infrastructure and when the laws change so that restaurants and other venues can host performers without the threat of facing expensive lawsuits if they don’t pay a third party parasite a licensing fee then things will be more fair. Until then the law is what makes things unfair and the law needs to change. Big media has an unfair, government granted unlevel playing field in their favor with their monopoly privileges over information distribution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Why doesn't TechDirt wear the logos of its sponsors?

and when big media stops abusing our broken legal system to go after Megaupload, Veoh, and many other service providers who offer artists and performers content distribution and payment methods that compete with big government established monopolists then things will be more fair. Until then it is unfair, the system is rigged to be unfair.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Why doesn't TechDirt wear the logos of its sponsors?

Even bakeries are afraid of allowing children to draw custom drawings on their birthday cakes because if they draw an infringing picture they could face an expensive lawsuit. It’s one-sidedely unfair in favor of big corporate monopolists that bought their way to the top by buying our politicians through revolving door favors and campaign contributions. Don’t think these corporate interests get nothing in return for their revolving door favors and campaign contributions. No, what they get in return is favorable, unfair legislation that unfairly and one-sidedly favors them against the public interest.

Anonymous Coward says:

That the people see the members of Congress as nothing more than mouthpieces for corporate lobbyists is only half the problem. The other half is that the Congressmen don’t give a damn what the people think because the people aren’t the ones buying their votes.

I’d love for this to actually happen though, it’d make politicians look like NASCAR drivers or European hockey players. Maybe corporations can start paying to have their logos put up in the House and Senate, on the walls and desks. Could probably pay off the debt that way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is a difference because this AC is anonymously calling out Mike, who is not anonymous. It’s different if he calls you out or if you call him out, it’s a wash, but anonymously pointing out that he’s anonymously calling out a non-anonymous person is fine because you’re not defending yourself with respect to the AC, you’re defending the non-anonymous person with respect to the AC.

Paul Clark (profile) says:

You Need to adopt the Canadian Solution

You need to adopt the Canadian solution. Each party gets $1.53 for each vote they received in the previous election for the next election. No donor or corporation can contribute more than $1,100 to a national party. We limit 3rd party advertising during elections.

This amounts are from a website and may be out of date.

This greatly limits the power of individuals and corporations. The current government is removing the funding as they feel they can do better without the restrictions. At the next government change, the funding will be back.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You Need to adopt the Canadian Solution

Unfortunately thanks to the idiots on the Supreme Court such a system would be ruled unconstitutional. Because you know, money is speech now.

So $1 is free speech, and $1,000,000 is more free speech.

Just goes to show how badly our whole system is corrupted by money, even in the judiciary.

Divide by Zero (profile) says:

Poor politicians, it’d cause chaos. Can you imagine if 2 opposing middle aged white dudes turned up to work in the same logos? The cat fights, the tears …

“But you told me I was the only one!”

“That’s my lobby group, get your filthy mitts off them you corporate whore!”

Followed by much slapping and hair pulling.

…it’d be the best fun in years.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Remove Money from Politics

Fund all election campaigns by the government via a fixed formula for allowed amounts (by office, by local maybe), including all media, and exclude third party advertising. No personal or external money may be used.

Money could be saved by requiring the ‘Fourth Estate’ companies that have business or other operating licenses to ‘donate’ a certain amount of advertising ‘space/time’ at certain points during an election process. The actual cost to them would be small.

The amount of money spent could easily be offset by ensuing non encumbered congresscritters that have a lack of party specific loyalties (the parties wouldn’t be controlling the money any more).

Oh, in order to do the above, congress would have to reverse that stupid Supreme Court decision saying corporations are people, or some corporation will run for President and be allowed due to this ruling. Good luck to us in getting that to happen!

R.H. (profile) says:

Re: Remove Money from Politics

Nice idea but this may also freeze out the people in supporting their prefered candidates. Would your plan also stop private citizens or groups thereof from buying advertising supporting specific candidates? For example, would I be able to buy a TV spot supporting my local representatives campaign if I choose? If not, since I actually am a person, that would seem to be a bit of a limitation on my freedom of speech.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Remove Money from Politics

I am unsure exactly how to work that out. I don’t want Unions, political parties, corporations, associations, etc. to have the ability to use their collective money to drown you out. I also don’t want the rich to be entitled to use their money to win elections. I want a level playing field where literally everybody has a chance to run, even if they are broke. If the government controls the advertising purse strings, and evenly distributes it, barring you from advertising but leaving you free to spend your time and voice (but not your money) in any other way you like (think Internet forums, maybe even dedicated forums funded and not moderated by the government). At least that is the general idea, rough edges included.

Anonymous Coward says:

best bet would be to outlaw lobbying in any and all forms. anyone found receiving donations and not passing them on to suitable charities could be fined similar amounts and booted out of office. could always tack on a jail term as well, like they are so keen on having dished out to ordinary people who file share. methinks they would rather not have lobbying and stay in the nice cushy positions as senators than have to get a ‘proper job’.

Nick Dynice (profile) says:

This post inspires a few more practical project ideas:
A Firefox or Chrome plug in that will can for names of Congresscritters and Senators and add javascript to them so that when you hover over the text it will show a bubble with the representatives? data from OpenSecrets API, possibly along with logos for donors.
A website that plays CSPAN embeds that has a way of detecting the name of the representatives on camera. To one site it can super-impose the headshot of the representatives on a body image and display corporate donor logos on their clothing, using the OpenSecrets API.
A website that is a directory of representatives that uses the OpenSecrets API to simply display the image of the headshot, body, and logos, along with a scoreboard or maybe some sort of Wall Street-style display of dollar totals.

P. says:

No Exemptions.

So if some Senator goes to a lunch meeting with a lobbyist, and disagrees with said lobbyist and doesn’t pass a single bill for that lobbyist… do they have to wear their button?

Also why track every lunch meeting for some, but ignore up to $1000 from others? Remove the exception, and just track all donations over $1000 from individuals, lobbyists, etc. All donations under $1000 get tracked in 3 different patches: “Individuals” “Corporations” and “Unions”. All patches are scaled on how much was donated, the biggest being 8 inches across, labeling the donor’s name, and how much was donated. Smallest will be 1/2 inch across with just a name.

Would be interesting seeing all the people complain about GE not paying taxes with Obama giving speeches on “paying their fair share” with a big GE patch on his chest.

kenichi tanaka says:

This petition has no merit except to give Obama political ammunition against anyone who opposes him. Obama’s defense of constitutional rights is lacking, sorely. I simply do not support him as long as he continues to fight for such things as “Warrantless Wiretapping”, “Indefinite Detentions”, “The Patriot Act”.

The problem is Obama, every time he signs these reauthorizations into law because there is zero oversight.

Only Congress can pass laws and not even Obama can order Congress to do what he wants, unless everyone is okay with seeing our constitution shredded, Congress dissolved and a military government installed with a dictator at the top.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nah, it’s not the Congress critters that need corporate logos, it’s the legislation itself that needs sponsorship messages:

SOPA: sponsored by the RIAA, MPAA, and GoDaddy.
CISPA: sponsored by AT&T, BSA, and Microsoft.

Display this prominently on CSPAN and all other media coverage. That way the public knows what companies are bad actors or supporting their interests.

[It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.]

npse says:

if meant “real change” we would be seeing a whole lot more of it. Sadly, if it does pass the response from the White House will be a decline or to protect the freedoms of politicians with some b.s. excuses. Come on, you did not think that you the innocent member of the general public actually had any hand in influencing federal laws, did you? Look at gun control. #gavel-smash

Anonymous Coward says:

Another problem is that no matter what dollar amount is used as the cutoff line, donors will still find a way to get their money into the right hands while avoiding turning “their” legislator into a logoed farce. If the loophole isn’t big enough to allow the (relatively) easy flow of money, the law will be amended until it is.

This is the real problem. As bad as lobbying is, it’s transparent. If we kill it off, it’ll just be replaced with something worse, backroom bribery or somesuch.

I have no idea how this problem can be solved. The closest thing I can think of to a solution would be mass elections of exemplary people; impeccably honorable, incredibly dedicated people, each determined to fix the broken government, bring bad actors in line, and restore public trust.
But since both major parties collude to keep the government fully stocked with willing pawns, I don’t see that sort of thing happening anytime soon.

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