As President Obama fired a marshmallow cannon in the White House dining room in a publicity stunt that resonated around the world, a range of promotional clothing to fund the incumbent’s Presidential re-election campaign went on sale. It’s a bewildering concept for the British voter: while some people put up posters in their windows, or may put a sticker in their car, almost nobody would wear a campaign T-shirt, unless it was a satirical comment on the election process as a whole. In America though, dressing the part demonstrates commitment to a candidate and to their funding, which is strictly regulated by the Federal Electoral Commission. Beyonce Knowles has designed a T-shirt for the campaign, and a silk scarf created by Monique Pean bears the President’s portrait.
The drive to sell is being fuelled by deliberately low prices which allow people to get a designer label (tops by Marc Jacobs, or a bag by Diane von Furstenburg) at much lower than usual prices. The opposition have raised questions about the issue, suggesting that while the designers may have donated their time for free, anybody who would normally be paid to help produce printed clothing would be ‘underwriting’ the campaign, which is illegal, but the Obama team say they are confident that all the technical support given to and by the designers was voluntary and unpaid.