Sunday, February 14, 2010

Political Campaign Finance Reform 2.0

I’m just as pissed off about the recent Supreme Court Decision on corporate financed “free speech” as the next person. (Look, if you aren’t one of the pissed off people, I don’t understand you. Just leave now. Please. Seriously.)

So, what do we do? It doesn’t seem like there’s anything to do. But, maybe, that’s wrong, or not the entire story. There is a looming credibility problem. I could be off about this, but it’s not as though the advertisement industry hasn’t had to jump through stunning amounts of self-reflexive hoops in order to make quotidian sorts of commercials for products even remotely interesting for mass audiences. Now that political campaigns can’t remotely pretend not to be corporate sponsored, the ad-race is going to be on. Think about it. The amount of money that can now be funneled into campaign ads is ghastly, astronomical, beyond the pale. But when all this money gets thrown into the process, it very well may be the undoing of any and all campaign ads. Let political candidates A, B and C advertise exactly like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. This will be the precise point at which people generally will become bored in a huge way. Political candidates offering a dollar menu deal, and ever-new catchy “Lovin’ it” songs and hip visuals with giant production values will become just so much noise. Sure, people still, unfortunately, eat at McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s, but when was the last time anyone ever took anything seriously about their ads?

What we really need is to put a limitation on candidate’s endorsement of ads. People and corporations can spend as much as they want on ads backing whatever candidates they chose, but none of the candidates can say that they “approve the ad” unless the ad cost less than, say, $300 to make. Steven Spielberg can offer to direct an ad, but he’ll have to do it for free, and the ad would have to appear on PBS, on free-access network time, youtube or a .org website. Corporations can spend as much as they want, but they can’t state that the candidate “approved the ad.” Yeah, this will never happen. But it should. Noise, the unintended consequence of this mess, will make the candidates who use youtube and production values of 0 dollars more viable. Imagine someone just sitting there using their computer to say stuff or having to do interviews, engage in debates in order to get material for their ads and that being the content “approved” by the candidate. You can say I'm a dreamer...

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