California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should pull a political commercial off the air that promotes the junk food products of his campaign donors, consumer advocates said.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) called on Schwarzenegger to return the quarter-million dollars he received from companies featured in the ad, and for the corporations to pay the market value of the advertising to the state because it is improper for the governor to use public office to sell corporate products.
The TV ad, released in May, features Schwarzenegger talking to people in a lunchroom, and places Pepsi and Arrowhead Water in prominent spots next to the governor for one-third of the ad.
Donors connected to Pepsi Co. and Arrowhead Water's parent company, Nestle, gave the governor a total of $279,800 in campaign contributions. Also recognizable on-screen are Ruffles, Sun Chips, Cheetos and a SoBe Beverage, all brands owned by Pepsi.
View the ad at www.JoinArnold.com.
The practice, known as "product placement," is increasingly common in television series and Hollywood films but is unheard of in political advertising. In fact, political ads typically avoid using logos because companies may not want to be associated with a particular candidate or issue.
"Schwarzenegger has turned the governor's office into a vending machine. It is inconceivable that Schwarzenegger didn't know that Pepsi and Arrowhead were in his commercial, or that the free air time and lucrative association with the Governor of California would benefit them. The governor should return their quarter million in campaign cash, and repay the state for misusing his office as a corporate spokesman for his political donors," said Carmen Balber, consumer advocate with FTCR.
"Every second of a political ad is important, so every second is planned. As a Hollywood actor and businessman, Governor Schwarzenegger knows that product placements are worth millions to corporate sponsors."
Pepsi gave the governor $30,000 in campaign contributions. The CEO of Nestle, the parent company of Arrowhead, gave Schwarzenegger $21,200. Another Nestle family company, Dreyer's Ice Cream, and company executives gave the governor $228,600.
In March, at the Arnold Fitness Weekend, Schwarzenegger proposed a ban on all junk food in schools.
"Governor Schwarzenegger said he wanted to remove junk food from our schools - he should be willing to pull political ads off the air that hawk junk food for his donors at California's expense," said Balber.
Schwarzenegger should disclose who the people are in the advertisement, whether they were paid, and where the ad was shot, said FTCR.