Corporate Campaign Contributions -- The NASCAR Solution

Some people think the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision removing limits on political campaign contributions from big corporations is the worst decision since Dred Scott, a decision that contributed to the start of the Civil War.

As a historian, I am not sure I would agree. Anyone who has followed the history of the court knows that there have been many questionable rulings over the years. This is just the latest. In fact, depending on your particular perspective, most decisions can be seen as good or bad. Personally, I think the court’s decision to summarily resolve the Presidential election of 2000 was a really bad one, but I know there are others who would disagree.

The problem with a Supreme Court decision is “that’s all folks,” at least for the foreseeable future. There is no place for the losing side to turn. Perhaps the absurdity of the ruling will be recognized in a decade or two, but unless we’re prepared to fight another civil war, there is really nothing that can be done to alter the court’s latest edict.
Campaign financing has long been a touchy subject and the Supreme Court’s recent decision does not help to resolve the matter. So, as we look ahead, perhaps it is time to consider a new approach. Rather than try to control the spigots of corporate gold that fill the war chests of our elected officials, perhaps we should try to regulate a little more honesty into the process.

Back in 1996, NASCAR racing legend Richard Petty was the Republican candidate for Secretary of State in North Carolina. Although he lost his bid for public office, he sparked an idea that may now be worthy of consideration.

During his campaign, Petty was asked by reporters if he intended to continue accepting corporate sponsorships once he was elected. His response was a very emphatic “Yes!” It was how he made money. Why should he change?

Anyone who has seen NASCAR knows that race cars are cluttered with the logos of their numerous corporate sponsors, and race car drivers wear equally colorful jackets proclaiming their loyalty to the companies that underwrite their respective racing teams.

What if we required politicians to do the same? What if they had to discard their pinstripe blue suits for brightly colored jumpsuits emblazoned with the insignias of their corporate sponsors. Republicans could wear red and Democrats could wear blue, although with unlimited corporate underwriting I suspect that the distinction between the two parties is apt to be even less significant in the future than it is today.

Corporations might even endorse such a plan. It provides an excellent new advertising opportunity, a chance to keep their product names before the public and a way to demonstrate their support for government. It also allows corporations to keep tabs on their elected officials, and I stress the words their officials.

Politicians have, and this may come as a shock to some, often been willing to take money from both sides of an issue in order to get elected, just as big money corporations gladly support opposing candidates just so they can be guaranteed access to a winner.

And, all of those awards certificates and “grip and grin” photographs that currently adorn the office walls of most politicians could be replaced with a background of corporate propaganda reflecting the public official’s various sponsors. Just like watching NASCAR, it would only take a quick glance at a Congressman’s clothing, car or office to know how he will vote at the next roll call.

In fact, we might want to take this idea a bit further by eliminating the salaries of politicians, as well as staff expenses, from governmental budgets. Politicos could be put on the corporate payroll directly. They might then discover what life is like for those few Americans who still have the opportunity to work for a living. In fact, if Corporate American is going to be allowed to buy America’s decision makers, why not let them take over the government completely?

Based on the brouhaha that has been created by recent health care proposals, it is clear that most Americans distrust their government. Why not let Corporate America take over running the country? Giant corporations have done such a great job in the banking and financial services arena, I’m sure they can have America running smoothly in no time at all.

© 2010 by David Lee McMullen


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