MasterCard International Inc. gave Ralph Nader's presidential campaign some "priceless" publicity Aug. 16 when the credit card company accused the Green campaign of trademark infringement in its parody of the credit card company's $100 million "Priceless'' ad campaign. MasterCard filed a lawsuit in US District Court in New York seeking $15 million in damages and an injunction against the Nader 2000 campaign's "Priceless Truth" commercial, which ran in selected markets for about 11 days. Nader labeled MasterCard's lawsuit as an absurd and clumsy abuse of corporate power in an attempt to suppress political speech.
"MasterCard is taking itself a little too seriously and in typical corporate style is trying not only to dominate the credit-card industry through 'dual governance' inside the marketplace, but the arena of free speech and the free flow of creative ideas in the political arena," Nader said. "They should lighten up. They're taking their name 'Master' too seriously. This is America."
Nader said the most outlandish charge was the lawsuit's claim that the campaign ad's purpose was to mislead consumers that Nader's candidacy was in some way connected with MasterCard. "Let me assure MasterCard's executives that the last thing I want consumers to believe is that my campaign is in the business of selling credit cards," Nader said. "Indeed on June 30, I issued a call for the enactment of a 'Credit Card Bill of Rights' to protect consumers from the excesses of the credit-card industry."
Not only did the spoof ad say "Paid for by the Nader 2000 Primary Committee, Inc.," but Nader noted that MasterCard recently made soft-money donations to the national Republican Congressional Campaign Committees.
The comedic highlight of MasterCard's complaint, Nader said, is the assertion that the TV spot was to enable Nader to "take advantage of the famous reputation and goodwill enjoyed by MasterCard." He added, "This claim is worthy of Saturday Night Live! I believe credit card charges are an outrageous fleecing of consumers, lead to invasions of consumer privacy and are used by too many merchants, who threaten damage to credit ratings, to stifle legitimate consumer complaints."
The "Priceless Truth" ad has been a big success across the nation, Nader said. The spot was aired in the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets throughout the Democratic convention.
MasterCard's humorless lawyers may have played into the hands of the Nader campaign. The ad's creator, Bill Hillsman of Minneapolis, has specialized in developing ads for political candidates such as Paul Wellstone and Jesse Ventura that get news attention far beyond the original media "buy." The goal of the ad, Hillsman said, was to make voters "viscerally angry" when they learn that Nader is being excluded from planned presidential debates.
Right-wing commentator Patrick J. Buchanan claimed the nomination of the Reform Party convention in Long Beach, Calif., but not before a group of delegates aligned with the Old Guard marched out of the convention and nominated their own candidate, setting up a potential court fight for the $12.6 million in federal funds. According to American-Reporter.com, Buchanan's nomination after a roll call of the states in the basement of the convention hall came after National Chairman Jerry Moan told the convention that a $950,000 mail-in and email vote was invalid. The National Committee ratified that opinion, but Moan later announced that Buchanan had won the mail-in and email vote by a 2:1 majority.
Meanwhile, a rump convention held by loyalists of party founder Ross Perot at the same complex in an adjacent theater nominated transcendental meditation advocate Dr. John Hagelin, who also is nominee of the Natural Law Party.
As Micah Sifry noted in The Nation, a third Reform faction, which styles itself as the American Reform Party, has endorsed Ralph Nader. A fourth group affiliated more or less with Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is led by Jack Gargan, who was the Reform Party's second chairman from the summer of 1999 until the Perot loyalists on the national committee ousted Gargan in a coup last February.
Ironically, Buchanan seized control of the party, which he now calls the "New Reform Party," after the Old Guard encouraged Buchanan to leave the Republican Party, then expressed discomfort at his right-wing social agenda which is at the center of his appeal. Buchanan's pitchfork brigade of conservative populists systematically pushed the Old Guard out of leadership positions in state organizations and were set to control the national convention when the Old Guard walked out.
Buchanan picked as his running mate Ezola Foster, an African-American woman from Los Angeles who has been active in the anti-immigrant movement and warmly embraced Buchanan's support of the Confederate Flag. "That war was more about states' rights than anything else," she said. Sifry noted that Buchanan's previous African-American apologist, Lenora Fulani, denounced him after he refused to make her chair of his convention; she has now thrown her claque back with the Perotist Old Guard.
Sifry wrote that the hard right turn of the Reform Party under Buchanan might present an opportunity for Nader to claim a large part of the 20 million Americans who voted for Perot in 1992, "or, to be more realistic about the Reform Party's political base, the 8 million who voted for him in 1996". Gargan told Sifry he had given up his last shred of hope for the party's revival and that he would be calling Nader "to ask him how I can help him." A longtime activist in the California Reform movement, Richard Porter, estimated that at least one-third of the members he knows are planning to vote for Nader, Sifry wrote. Ventura has called on the Presidential Debates Commission to include Nader because he will raise issues that the major parties won't touch.