Nader to MasterCard: "Lighten up!"

The presidential candidate dismisses the company's $15 million lawsuit against him as absurd.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
Published August 18, 2000 7:37PM (EDT)

Presidential candidate Ralph Nader found a punch line in the humorless $15 million lawsuit MasterCard has brought against him for a campaign ad that parodies a series of the credit card company's ads. "The comedic highlight of MasterCard's complaint," the long-time consumer advocate said in a Thursday press conference, comes when the company "asserts that the purpose of this television spot was to connect in some way with MasterCard to enable me to 'take advantage of the famous reputation and goodwill enjoyed by MasterCard.'"

The irony, of course, is that Nader would consider the company's reputation infamous and its will not necessarily good, but definitely iron-strong. "I believe credit card charges are an outrageous fleecing of consumers, lead to invasions of consumer privacy and are used by too many merchants, who threaten damages to credit ratings, to stifle legitimate consumer complaints," he said.

Nader added: "Let me assure MasterCard's executives that the last thing I want consumers to believe is that my campaign is in the business of selling credit cards," and pointed out that he's recently called for greater regulation of the credit card industry.

What dunderheaded pack of lawyers cooked up this laughable P.R. debacle? MasterCard's lawsuit, filed Tuesday, seeks $15 million in damages and an injunction against a Nader campaign ad, which plays off what the company calls its "famous and renowned 'Priceless' advertising campaign." But so far, the suit has done nothing but give the dark horse candidate the opportunity to remind voters of his dim views of the credit card industry and put the financial behemoth under campaign contribution scrutiny.

Yes, as Nader reminds us, MasterCard contributes to the national Republican Congressional Campaign Committees.

"MasterCard is taking itself a little too seriously and in typical corporate style is trying not only to dominate the credit card industry through 'dual governance' inside the marketplace, but the arena of free speech and the free flow of creative ideas in the political arena," said Nader. "They should lighten up. They're taking their name 'Master' too seriously. This is America."

Did anyone in the legal department over at MasterCard bother to make note that they're taking on one of the country's best-known consumer advocates? This may prove to be one of the few times that a tangle with a credit card company has actually helped to improve someone's credit.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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