Following last month’s blog on the similarity between U.S. lobbying and what often passes for bribery elsewhere, I was imagining how truly transparent sponsorship of elected officials would look. Given my early life passion for motorsports and my occasional viewing of an auto race, it occurred to me that perhaps our Washington legislators could take some cues from professional race car drivers.
What you say? How did you make that jump? Well, rather easily really.
Take as an example NASCAR, which has grown phenomenally in popularity around the world in recent years. The drivers and pit crew members willingly advertise their sponsors’ brands and products on their uniforms, hats, decalcomania on their cars and openly plug them during interviews. Everyone knows the Ford drivers will promote Ford, the Miller Lite team will promote their sponsor’s beer, and the Office Depot sponsored teams will promote the chain of retail stores. It’s transparent and obvious.
How would that look in Washington? What if each politician was clearly beholden to their sponsors, the organizations and brands that have influenced their decisions? What if this was so transparent that when a press conference or interview was held the public would know who contributed to their campaign or who lobbied for the legislation the politico was authoring or endorsing at the time. What if politicians wore jackets covered with their sponsors’ logos like racer Tony Stewart above?
After all, how many citizens sit watching television in the evening with a handy directory of which politicians are beholden to what special interests, be they AARP, NRA, the oil lobby or the automobile industry? They sit there passively taking in the interview or press conferences unaware of who is sponsoring the politician’s comments. Until we do something about influence peddling in politics we will indeed get the legislators we deserve.
Final note: In an uncanny comparison of which party's politicians are invested in what stocks, take a look at this graphic just published by Miller-McCune magazine: http://www.miller-mccune.com/politics/partisan-portfolios-1297. The first impression one gets is the incredulous comparisons, where politicians from one party invest heavily in one type of stock the other side is largely invested in different kinds of companies. And note which party is invested in which kind of companies. Worth a look, really!