By Ralph Nader
The roar of the crowd, the flashbulbs, the excitement, the spirit of competition the… corporate logo-addled uniforms?
One might be describing a NASCAR event, or perhaps even an NBA game in the near future if NBA commissioner David Stern gets his way. Or, one could be describing a political campaign rally, if Congress was as willing as the NBA and NASCAR to proudly display the logos of the big corporations that finance them.
We recently launched the Suits for Sale campaign (suitsforsale.org) to bring attention to the dominance of big money in politics. It’s no secret that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, super PACs have flooded campaigns with more money than ever before. So what better way to inform voters of who they are really voting for then to adorn our elected officials with the very corporate logos that brought them to power?
Let’s look at Rep. John Boehner of Ohio’s 8th Congressional district, current Speaker of the House, major corporate donation sponge and model of our first Congressional jacket poster. A quick glance at Speaker Boehner’s top contributors reveals a whole slew of heavy hitters: AT&T, FirstEnergy Corp, Swisher International (maker of “America’s favorite Swisher Sweets Cigars”), and American Electric Power. Sallie Mae, Walmart and Goldman Sachs were also big time contributors in previous campaign cycles.
For the 2012 election cycle, running completely unopposed by the Democrats, Boehner has raised more than 18 million campaign dollars — nearly twice as much as he raised in 2010 when he actually had an opponent. Even considering his elevated status as Speaker, it’s still a shocking amount of money.
Boehner once told CNN: “I am the business community, that’s who I am,” while in the same breath saying, “I don’t do special interest favors.” This is the same John Boehner, who, as Congress debated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform act in 2009, invited hundreds of financial industry lobbyists to Washington for a strategy session on de-fanging any significant reform. The same John Boehner who rakes in millions of dollars from the healthcare industry while presiding over a House of Representatives that has voted more than 30 times to repeal Obamacare — and has done little else.
The Suits for Sale campaign might seem whimsical, a Jon Stewart-esque way of calling attention to a serious problem in politics, but let’s envision it as something more. Let’s envision an aroused citizenry calling for accountability in their elected officials. Imagine hundreds of voters gathering outside of their Senators and Representatives offices — even the White House — with real corporate-logo covered suit jackets, demanding their officials to wear the colorful depictions of who they truly represent.
Who knows, maybe if Congress actually had to conspicuously display their sponsors like NASCAR drivers, they might think twice about whose dollars they take.