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Artist behind 2008 Obama ‘Hope’ poster: Elections rife with ‘legalized bribery’


Shepard Fairey, the artist best known for creating the iconic Obama “Hope” poster in 2008, teamed up with fellow activists to judge a new contest which challenged artists to create images representing the dirty money flooding American politics.

The contest, dubbed art > MONEY, offered cash prizes and the opportunity for the winner’s artwork to be displayed and distributed widely. Fairey judged the contest alongside activists Lawrence Lessig and Annie Leonard, and Jesse Dylan, director of the “Yes We Can” music video.

“Creating imagery that is easily understandable and just getting the issue out on the table … is a top priority,” Fairey told msnbc’s Alex Wagner on Monday’s NOW with Alex Wagner. 

The winner of the contest was 21-year-old Nashville-based graphic designer Landon Wix, who designed a fake Monopoly card which reads: “Keep money out of politics.”

“There’s a sort of legalized bribery that’s there,” Fairey said. “If you don’t pander to the people who can finance your campaign and owe them a favor, you won’t be a viable candidate.”

The Cycle co-host Steve Kornacki argued that the influence of money in politics was much more deeply felt in House and Senate elections than in presidential races.

“We spent a lot of time this year saying Obama was going to get swamped by advertisements, and that Republicans were going to have more money,” he said. “I think, in the presidential race, the polls have sort of shown that he’s immune to that. At the presidential level, there’s so much free media coverage. Everybody can follow this race without looking at television advertising.”

In 2008, Obama made history as the first presidential candidate to refuse public financing. This year, both Obama and Romney declined public financing for the general election.

Fairey also spoke about the importance of voting. He recently teamed up with the startup company Sincerely Inc. to design a postcard encouraging people to vote. The card was offered for free through the company’s Ink Cards app.

“If 2008 was about hope, I think 2012 is about action, and if you sit on the sidelines and don’t vote, you’re allowing people to shape the system that may not have your best interests in mind,” Fairey said.

Artist behind 2008 Obama 'Hope' poster: Elections rife with 'legalized bribery'