The Obama campaign was criticized by media outlets such as Rolling Stone and Time when it sent out a call to designers asking them to create poster designs illustrating support for President Obama’s jobs bill. The campaign will choose a winner—and that winner will receive neither payment nor copyright ownership.
This amounts to free labor, which is not exactly jobs-friendly.
Election laws prohibit political campaigns from accepting individual contributions in excess of $2,500, and therefore the campaign cannot contract a design firm to produce a poster. This restriction led in part, perhaps, to the creation of the design contest. The problem, from a PR perspective, is that the Obama campaign did not work through all the possible outcomes of the design contest. And now it has to deal with the taunts of a media-savvy segment of the workforce. The irony of asking someone to work for free in order to promote a bill about job creation was not lost among the media and designer community.
The Obama campaign could have dipped into its $62 million well and paid a designer a fee that falls under $2,500 limit. Saving money, though, was probably not the goal. The contest was likely an attempt at a grassroots campaign that would generate positive buzz—instead it got a buzz-killer.