In an attempt to raise more money for incumbent President Bush's campaign bid, the Republican Party has come up with a novel strategy -- open corporate sponsorship.
Ben Dover and Taykett Leiker-Mann, GOP financial strategists, were the architects of the new idea, details of which were hammered out at the Convention in New York last week. "Corporations are giving us money all the time, and they're grumbling that there's no visible return on their money," explains Dover. "Sure, we've done a lot in the last four years to give them a decent return on their contributions. Just look at the environmental record," he giggles.
"But the point is," adds Leiker-Mann, " that if, say, a multinational oil services company, to take a perfectly random theoretical example, were to give the Republican Party a few million dollars -- we're still speaking hypothetically, you understand -- it's nice for them to see their name somewhere."
"Which," interrupts Dover, "is the big idea Taykett and I came up with. We're having a sealed-bid auction. Envelopes to be opened at the end of next week, and the highest bidder has the right to name the Republican Party for the next four years. That means their name goes on every ballot paper, every piece of campaign literature, every ad spot, you name it. Even at a billion dollars, it's a steal. So it's really representative of the GOP."
So we could see President Bush and Vice President Cheney of the Halliburton Party? "Absolutely ," says Dover. "Assuming Halliburton won the auction. Still hypothetical here, of course. There's a lot of interest in this," he adds. "And you understand, the winning company doesn't have to use the company name. It could be a product or a movie they want to promote. We're telling them that they can't change the name more than once a week, though."
Suppose Heinz decided to bid? I ask. "Omigod, we never thought of that one," blurts Leiker-Mann. "You mean Kerry might take over the Republican Party? We could become the Tomato Ketchup Party. Or the Pork and Beans Party!" she squeals.
"We'll just lose their envelope if they decide to apply," says Dover. "It's just like ballot papers. No-one notices a piece of paper going missing."
The office of Vice-President Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, refused to comment on the issue other than to say "the Vice President is always interested in issues concerning money and the Republican Party."
Challenger John Kerry's campaign office issued the following statement, "We do not have now, nor do we envisage having at any time in the future, an interest in purchasing the naming rights of the Republican Party. We have enough names for them already."
The Democratic National Committee was asked whether they intended to introduce a similar system to raise money, and replied with a categorical negative. "We're called the Democratic Party -- that means we're sponsored by the people -- not by a corporation. And we're going to keep it that way."