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 OpenSecrets.org
(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.