An MSNBC pundit has accused Sarah Palin's bus tour of operating in violation of federal law.
Claims of breach of federal campaign finance laws are common in every election, and Donald Trump was accused of a breach before announcing he wouldn't be running. But, that's not the offense Martin Bashir has accused Palin of committing.
Bashir instead says that the stars and stripes painted on Palin's tour bus, which is being used in part to promote book sales, is in violation of the United States Flag Code:
"In fact, the whole thing could be in breach of a federal law because the United States Flag Code establishes important rules for the use and display of the stars and stripes, the flag of the United States. Under standards of respect and etiquette, it's made clear that the flag of the United States should never be used for any advertising purpose whatsoever. Yet that's precisely what Sarah Palin is doing. She's using the flag of the United States for her own financial purposes. She drapes herself in the stars and stripes and makes millions of dollars in the process."
Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8:
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
This rule is discussing mutilation of a flag to be used in commercial purposes, not the use of a representation of a flag, such as a partial flag painted on to a tour bus. Another section lays out more strict rules, which would prohibit painting the flag onto anything for a commercial purpose, but the rule only applies to DC, comes with a misdemeanor charge and $100 fine, and under Supreme Court rulings, is unenforceable as a violation of the First Amendment freedom of speech.
The idea that the flag cannot be used in commercial enterprises is, on its face, absurd, and smacks of the sort of convoluted, counter-factual notions produced by tin-hat conspiracy theorists.
Just for fun, we looked a little further into the flag code, and... well, we'll let it speak for itself. From the same section:
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.