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).
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.)
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.
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