Singing A Different Tune: Republican Candidates’ Campaign Hypocrisy

1 Jul

Mine...All Mine!

What is it with Republican Presidential campaigns and the theft of intellectual property? It seems that once a GOP candidate starts running for the highest office, (s)he rises above the law and says, “Oh, I like that, I think I’ll take it!”

The latest offender is serial hypocrite and history buff Michele Bachmann. Since announcing her official candidacy (ironically after appearing in a candidates’ debate), Bachmann has taken to using Tom Petty’s song American Girl at her campaign stops. Petty, a staunch supporter of artists’ creative control rights, issued a cease-and-desist letter, which Bachmann has so far ignored. In fact, her campaign started using another song without permission, Katrina and the Waves hit Walking On Sunshine. Lead vocalist Katrina Leskanich immediately laid into Bachmann:

As the singer of ‘Walking on Sunshine’ I don’t endorse its use by Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign.  I’ve performed ‘Walking on Sunshine’ for so many years in so many different countries that it’s become the one constant in my life and the one thing I can count on to bring happiness to myself and others. The song is used in commercials and movies as a vehicle for a feel good moment or empowerment but if I disagree with the policies, opinions or platforms for its use, I’ve no choice but to try and defend the song and prevent its misuse.

Sadly, Bachmann is far from alone. Here are just a few other examples:

  • Saint Ronald, whose politics were frighteningly far to the left of this current crop of loonies, started the trend when he practiced the unwitting irony of name-checking Bruce Springsteen and referencing Born In the U.S.A. during his re-election campaign. At least Ronnie didn’t actually steal the song.
  • Mike Huckabee got into hot water with Boston’s Tom Scholz for appropriating More Than A Feeling.
  • George W. Bush borrowed at least two songs without permission. He got into trouble with Orleans leader and NY Congressman John Hall for misuse of the 70s hit Still the One. He also practiced Petty theft with the rocker’s I Won’t Back Down. Petty did not, and Bush was forced to drop the song.
  • Former half-governor Sarah Palin stole Heart’s Barracuda during her Vice-Presidential campaign disaster, prompting an angry cease-and-desist from Ann and Nancy Wilson. Ironically, this song was about the music industry mistreating women.
  • Palin’s top of ticket man, John McCain, is the champ in this category. He most famously misused two John Mellencamp songs, Pink Houses and Our Country. The very Democratic Mellencamp sued. McCain also borrowed Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger and hits by the Foo Fighters and Van Halen, as well as playing a Bon Jovi song for appearances with Palin.

Other Republicans have behaved similarly. Senate wannabe Chuck DeVore stole two Don Henley songs during his failed bid to unseat Barbara Boxer. Florida’s Charlie Crist couldn’t decide which party to run with during his failed Senate bid, but he did steal Road to Nowhere from David Byrne and was forced to air a public service announcement apology. Here’s a great overview of these and other thefts.

The great irony, of course, is that Republican candidates are so aggressively “pro-business” in their politics. They argue for tax cuts, business incentives, deregulation, and protecting the rights of businesses over workers at every turn. If the business in question happens to be music, however, they turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Ignoring the actual messages of the songs, the political wishes of the performers, and the property rights of the writers, they lift the soundbite they want with a grotesque sense of entitlement. Clearly, Bachmann et al. send the message that they are above the law. What does that promise for how they would lead this country?

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