K-Fed Pleads for Pennies

Many celebrities have their pet causes -- Angelina Jolie has world refugees, George Clooney wants action on genocide in Darfur, and Cher is lobbying for safer helmets for U.S. troops.

Add aspiring rapper Kevin Federline to that list -- he has joined the fight to save the Rodney Dangerfield of currency, the lowly penny.

Britney Spears' much-maligned husband joined Americans for Common Cents and Virgin Mobile executives last month in New York's Times Square, ostensibly to "save the U.S. penny from annihilation."

Federline emerged from a red truck wearing an Abraham Lincoln mask, driving the swarm of paparazzi around the truck into a frenzy.

"Man, I feel good about the penny!" declared Federline, who was nattily dressed in a black suit, white dress shirt, aviator sunglasses and sporting his trademark stubble.

Bad Penny?

The penny is actually not in imminent danger of being eliminated, but sentiment against the one-cent piece ebbs and flows, said Matthew Eggers, the policy director of Americans for Common Cents.

ACC is a coalition of businesses, including the zinc industry (pennies are about 97 percent zinc), charitable groups and coin-collecting organizations that advocates on behalf of the penny.

Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., introduced a bill in 2001 that would essentially eliminate the penny by rounding cash transactions up or down. Proponents of the bill argue that pennies are merely an annoyance and getting rid of them will save consumers and retailers time and money.

Not so, says Eggers. He said that rounding up transactions is a hidden tax on consumers, especially low-income people. And he said that pennies often benefit charities.

"Charity relies on the simple, yet potent, contribution pennies make," Eggers said.

Plus, he added, surveys show that about two-thirds of Americans want to keep the penny around.

Calling K-Fed

To demonstrate the value of the penny, ACC, Virgin Mobile and Federline announced a charity penny drive -- loose change collected at events across the country will be donated to The RE* Generation, an organization that connects at-risk kids with activists groups.

Perhaps less charitably, Virgin Mobile also introduced its new one-cent text messaging offer.

But, outside of "helping the kids," how did Federline get involved in saving the penny?

"He likes to text message," said a Virgin representative.

Indeed, Federline made a show of text messaging from the stage as Eggers and a Virgin executive talked about the Save the Penny campaign.

When asked who he was sending a message to, Federline replied, "My wife."

And as an added incentive, for one day in June only, members of the public have the chance to call or text message K-Fed himself at a special number -- 310-876-4210.

As this article went to press, calls to Federline's number were being routed straight to voicemail.

Comments