Fast Food

McDonald's serves up a wholesome photo opportunity at the State Capitol Building today

Colorado legislators work hard, and apparently deserve a break today -- with a catered lunch from McDonald's, complete with the Ronald McDonald mascot.

Representatives from America's favorite Quarter Pounder-pimps will be visiting the State Capitol at 11:30 this morning to "highlight its economic impact on Colorado," according to the announcement, while also serving over 450 "wholesome lunches" to legislators. And their staffers, presumably, since there are only a hundred lawmakers in the Colorado Legislature.

Make a super-sized French fry sigh while you ponder two things: Is this PR-purposed picture show really the best way for McDoo to show how magnanimous it is? And are these "wholesome lunches" actually coming from McDonald's?

When I think of the word "wholesome," many things come to mind: homemade oatmeal cookies, that adorable gay kid from Glee, and the fresh, spring lilacs in my yard -- although they are lightly dusted with fresh local snow at the moment. What I don't immediately think of is anything on the McDonald's menu.

The only vaguely healthy things at McDonald's are the wilted iceberg salads, the rubbery chicken sandwiches, and the yogurt parfaits and smoothies that are so sweet they could slough off tooth enamel. But at least feeding lawmakers massive amounts of sugar should get them working faster for a few hours.

McDonald's isn't all bad for Colorado: It purchases plenty of local beef, eggs, flour and sugar from Colorado suppliers -- to the tune of $70.5 million in 2011 -- and that obviously stimulates the state economy, as well as supports the frequently embattled beef industry as a whole, when it suffers from PR drive-by assassinations like the current "pink slime" situation or "lean, finely-textured beef-gate." After discovering the ammonia-treated meat stuff in its ground beef supply, the Boulder Valley School Cistrict hit the "return to sender" button on its remaining supply, and Denver Public Schools gets the smug award for making sure everyone knows that DPS buys local beef without any of the demonized filler in it.

McDonald's dived right into the kerfuffle when the company announced that it was cow-towing to popular demand and eschewing beef with the additive, so perhaps this morning's publicity parade is a thinly-veiled attempt to let Colorado beef producers know that it ain't personal -- and McDoo still loves them th-i-i-s much.

It's more likely that the golden arch-ies are having a cheeseburger soirée with our bicameral buddies at the State Cap as part of their usual, PR maintenance routine -- just makin' the rounds. Say what you want about the folks at McDonald's (I say quite a lot myself), but when it comes to throwing kiss-ass money at the public, they have a strong pitching arm. And they do some genuinely good -- and tax-defraying -- things like run the Ronald McDonald house program. Giving families with sick kids a posh crash pad with meals and cable TV to help them at least have a few comfortable hours in between hospital visits is definitely commendable.

But cheesing over local lawmakers with cherry pies seems awfully opportunistic and patrician, considering that the 450 meals they are hooking up would be much more appreciated by the homeless and the villainized Occupy Denver protesters across the lawn. Giving free food to people who can afford to buy their own lunches is a time-honored tradition in the gilded empire of public relations, but if there are any leftover Big Macs and McNuggets, I hope the guy in the Ronald McDonald costume walks them over to the folks at Lincoln Park -- that would be a truly wholesome thing to do.