A possibly-legal way to officially be paid for advertising purposes while serving in a public office! Run it by a lawyer first, though.


Most countries have laws that discourage public officials from being financially compensated to use their official powers to benefit particular companies. (This is usually called “bribery.”)

For example, a state governor probably couldn’t declare July 5 to be “Official BestUsedAutoDeals.com Appreciation Day, Use Referral Code AUTO4U.

However—maybe there’s a “one weird trick”-style loophole that would allow public officials to be paid to promote a business without officially promoting it!


Two elements of this are crucial:

  • In some countries (e.g. United States) it’s legal for a person to legally change their name to essentially any text, no matter how bizarre.
  • Public officials often sign documents that go out to thousands of people: for example, a governor’s signature might be found on a college diploma and a treasurer’s signature might be found on a piece of paper currency (Figure 1).
Fig. 1: The U.S. Secretary of the Treasury’s signature can be found in the highlighted area.

So here’s the question: could a government official—let’s say the Secretary of the Treasury—be paid to change their own name to, for example, “www-ultimate-snake-products-dot-com”?

Normally, this would just seem like a really strange marketing plan, but in this case, that text would also appear on millions of banknotes / diplomas / passports / etc., as shown in Figure 2.

(Essentially, this is a roundabout way of selling ad space on official documents.)

Fig. 2: If we suppose that the Secretary of the Treasury from Figure 1 (William E. Simon) had changed his name to “BestUsedAutosDotCom REFERRAL CODE USA#1,” could his official signature have looked like this? Perhaps!


This situation is probably weird enough that there isn’t any law that explicitly prohibits it in a clear fashion. This provides a spectacular opportunity for any aspiring politician looking to make a mark on history!

PROS: Opens the possibility of a person receiving a presidential pardon signed by “Mega Value Soups & Noodles: Your Trusted Brand!

CONS: Apparently the legal and political systems are not (yet) operated by a giant robot or Star Trek computer, so it’s possible that there’s some kind of catch-all anti-bribery law that could be applied to this situation.