Its common practice for companies to hire celebrities to promote their products – everything from razor blades to cars to pizza. There’s a lot of competition out there and celebrities claiming a product is their favorite often persuades consumers to at least try their product. As long at the celebrity actually uses the product they endorse, which is law in China but apparently not in the US, there’s nothing really wrong with the practice.
Anyway, if I buy a Gold Bond product because I like and trust their spokesman Shaquille O’Neal and the product doesn’t live up to expectations, I can always take it back to the store and get my money back. I probably won’t write to Shaq and complain because maybe it worked for him. Benefit of the doubt, you know … I think Shaq is an honest fellow!
But does the same concept hold as ethical if the “celebrity” is a public official. What happens if the product proves a bust and yet it can’t be returned? What if the officials see the error of their support for a failed product but must continue to actually promote the product anyway? What if the money they were paid, in fact, bought their unflinching loyalty to the product and for the next 25 years they couldn’t tell their constituents they were bamboozled? What if the product failed to deliver on its promises and actually became a health and/or environmental hazard and, by contract, they couldn’t speak out on behalf of the citizens they represent?
Sound far fetched? Well, it seems little is when it comes to the industrial wind business.
As example, a contract under review for approval by the Board of Education representing the Mount Pulaski district in Illinois. Seems the BOE just decided to turn down a $12.5 million offer submitted for their approval by wind farm developers Meridien LLC, a subsidiary of Italy based ReLight US Corp. All the wind company wanted in return was for the BOE to keep a zipped lip to any problems stemming from the wind plant under consideration for the area.
One citizen saw the potential money as salvation to a dwindling treasury noting that, among other school improvements, “the money could be used to add teacher’s aides to classrooms.” Another saw it as a way for the wind developer to buy silence stating, “Ask yourself, ‘why are they offering this deal?’ The reason is because they know they have problems. They know they are going to harm local residents.”
Sure, it would be a tough decision to refuse the cash. Dangling money in front of a community in need can be pretty persuasive. But after hearing from the public and, I would hope, realizing the ethical jeopardy they would put themselves in, the Board voted down the contract 4 to 2.
Just what were some of the “protections” the wind developer sought from the BOE in return for their $12.5 million which was to be paid out over the length of the project? Have a look:
- Present a resolution to the Logan County board in favor of the project
- Supply representatives to speak in support of the project at public meetings
- Issue company-approved news releases expressing their support for the wind farm
- Ban all current and future board members from speaking against the project in an official capacity
- Not make any claims or suits against the project or the company
- Be prevented from passing any law or ordinance that would regulate, limit or detrimentally affect the project
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Exactly how bad must your product be that you have pay officials to ignore their sworn duty to protect their citizens?
Thanks to our friends at National Wind Watch for reporting on the story. Read more here –School Board votes ‘no’ on wind farm agreement
By the way, don’t think it can happen here … “here” being wherever you are? Only way to be sure it doesn’t is to insist your officials fully understand they are working for you and that any contracts, as it was in this case, be made available to the public prior to signing.