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Selling Sushi? Start a PAC

Photo: Chaya

Should a PAC be formed by a company to market a product?

On the national level, Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC certainly makes a statement about the state of our political process, but isn’t it really all about marketing him and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central?

When KYZZ, National Public Radio’s station in Phoenix, Arizona, recently interviewed me for a story about a local sushi restaurant chain that formed a PAC to wage a marketing campaign, it gave me pause.

The campaign was bipartisan, featuring different posters encouraging people to vote for Governor Romney or for President Obama, and at the same time prominently marketed the restaurant chain.

My first thought was how terribly clever and potentially stupid the PR consultant who came up with this idea truly is.  To be sure, the campaign is generating attention, but at what price?  PAC law and regulations are strict, and it will be very easy for the restaurant to be in violation.

My very next thought was that this is another example of how PACs are maligned.  PACs play an important and legitimate role of helping elect candidates to public office.  Despite all of the witty comments that come to mind about them, using this essentially American means of political involvement to sell sushi  is …well, fishy.

Nevertheless, the KYZZ interviewer gave me a “teachable” moment, which I eagerly accepted.  Hopefully, I shed some light on the role of PACs and helped to distinguish corporate, association and professional PACs from Super PACs and ideological PACs in the minds of a few listeners.

I’m not a sushi fan—just ask my family and friends.  I can catch a bigger fish using sushi as bait.  If my local pizza chain decides to form a PAC to market its pies, I certainly hope their bipartisan campaign includes something I can eat.

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