Back when my kids were wide-eyed over such things, I scored them a ride in Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfishmobile, a 13-foot high orange cracker on wheels. I was glad, as I wrote in the New York Times in 2002, that there wasn’t any “fishtailing.”

Mobile advertising has a long history, going back to the Moxie Wagons of the 1890s. You’ve never had a bottle of Moxie? Don’t get too upset. Other ad trucks included the Pep-O-Mint Lifesaver truck of 1918 (it resembled a roll of candy), the Zippo Car circa 1947 and the famous Oscar Meyer Weinermobile — there were fleets of those by 1936.

Ben Cohen stamps moneyThis story isn’t about any of those, cool as they may be. The newest message vehicle isn’t advertising Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, though its creator is B&J co-founder Ben Cohen (pictured stamping money at left). On the base of a Chevy 3500 flatbed, Cohen’s minions have constructed The Amend-O-Matic StampMobile as part of a Stamp Stampede traveling road show designed to sway the public on getting money out of politics. You can check if it's coming anywhere near you this summer. After a tour with Crosby, Stills and Nash down south last month, the StampMobile will be at the Clearwater Festival in Croton, N.Y., on June 15 and 16. On June 25, they'll be on Wall Street and in Times Square.

What the StampMobile does is take legal tender, put it through a Rube Goldberg obstacle course, and stamp it with some handy phrases, including “Not to be Used for Bribing Politicians — Amend the Constitution” and “Stamp Money Out of Politics.” The dough goes through a guy in a top hat, past a corporate office tower, and then returns to its owner through a politician’s mouth.

The campaign will also gladly sell you a stamp so you can message all your money and get it in circulation. They claim that the average dollar is seen by 875 people over 2.5 years. Yes, it’s legal to write stuff on paper currency (though its illegal to destroy it or deface it so it’s no longer recognizable).

Cohen's dirty money crusade also supplied 20 other vehicles, including the Cowmobile, the HugMobile, the IranMobile, the Oreomobile, Pants on Fire I and II, the Pigmobile (the most famous one) and the Topsy Turvy School Bus. Here's a closer look at the campaign in the video below:

The basic reason for this, as most MNN readers know, is the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which blew away any limits on corporate and individual political contributions.

Remember when, during the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney said that “corporations are people”? The root of that was the Supremes’ Buckley v. Valeo decision in 1976, which ruled that political giving by companies is protected free speech under the First Amendment.

“No other major democracy in the world allows for the unfettered spending on elections by private individuals or corporations,” Cohen’s campaign says. “What we need is a constitutional amendment that says that money is not free speech, and also that corporations are not people.” In place of the usual piles of mysterious cash will be above-board public financing — everybody spends the same amount. 

Good luck getting that one through Congress, which has a vested interest in the status quo. But some 13 states have actually passed ballot resolutions calling for such an amendment, and 150 members of Congress are in support. Not enough, obviously, but it’s a start. Supporting the campaign are Greenpeace, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, the NAACP and others, 140 groups in all. Here's more of the StampMobile on video:

Related posts on MNN:

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

Getting money out of politics with Ben & Jerry's StampMobile
Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's fame is using an ad-mobile to dramatize his case for a constitutional amendment to publicly fund elections.