Obama Campaign In Apparent Violation of Federal Flag Law
The Obama campaign has attached its logo to a likeness of the American flag. Using the flag for advertising purposes is a violation of federal law.
Under the U.S. Flag Code (Chapter 1, Title 4 of the U.S. Code), the law specifically restricts those subject to U.S. Law from using the flag “for any advertising purpose.”
From Section 3 of that law:
“Any person who, within the District of Columbia, in any manner, for exhibition or display, shall place or cause to be placed any word, figure, mark, picture, design, drawing, or any advertisement of any nature upon any flag, standard, colors, or ensign of the United States of America; or shall expose or cause to be exposed to public view any such flag, standard, colors, or ensign upon which shall have been printed, painted, or otherwise placed, or to which shall be attached, appended, affixed, or annexed any word, figure, mark, picture, design, or drawing, or any advertisement of any nature; or who, within the District of Columbia, shall manufacture, sell, expose for sale, or to public view, or give away or have in possession for sale, or to be given away or for use for any purpose, any article or substance being an article of merchandise, or a receptacle for merchandise or article or thing for carrying or transporting merchandise, upon which shall have been printed, painted, attached, or otherwise placed a representation of any such flag, standard, colors, or ensign, to advertise, call attention to, decorate, mark, or distinguish the article or substance on which so placed shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $100 or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both, in the discretion of the court. The words “flag, standard, colors, or ensign”, as used herein, shall include any flag, standard, colors, ensign, or any picture or representation of either, or of any part or parts of either, made of any substance or represented on any substance, of any size evidently purporting to be either of said flag, standard, colors, or ensign of the United States of America or a picture or a representation of either, upon which shall be shown the colors, the stars and the stripes, in any number of either thereof, or of any part or parts of either, by which the average person seeing the same without deliberation may believe the same to represent the flag, colors, standard, or ensign of the United States of America.”
As written, that particular section of the law specifically pertains to anyone within the District of Columbia. However, Paragraph (g), Section 8 is perfectly clear:
The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
…and paragraph (i):
The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose whatsoever.
The U.S. Flag Code was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 as Public Law Public Law 77-623; chapter 435.
There is no penalty for violation of the U.S. Flag Code: Enforcement has been found to be an unconstitutional violation of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution by the United States Supreme Court. However, the remainder of the law, aside from the penalty and enforcement provisions, stands.
History of Flag Violations
This isn’t the first time the Obama campaign has come under scrutiny for flag displays. In 2008, a photograph taken inside an Obama field campaign office also raised eyebrows. In that photograph, campaign staffers in Houston had hung a flag with the idealized image of Che Guevara in the traditional place of honor, on the right (the left facing the viewer).
In that incident, the Obama campaign pushed back, noting that the Houston office was staffed by volunteers, and was therefore not an official campaign outlet.
In the present case, however, the flag is being sold on the official Obama campaign Web site, for $35 per print.
Here is a screen capture of the flag, in context on the Obama campaign website:
A call to the Barack Obama campaign press office seeking comment was not immediately returned. We will keep readers posted if and when the Obama campaign provides a statement.