Untitled Document
Taking a Closer Look at the Stories Ignored by the Corporate Media
Donate | Fair Use Notice | Who We Are | Contact

NEWS
All News
9-11
Corporatism
Disaster in New Orleans
Economics
Environment
Globalization
Government / The Elite
Human Rights
International Affairs
Iraq War
London Bombing
Media
Police State / Military
Science / Health
Voting Integrity
War on Terrorism
Miscellaneous

COMMENTARY
All Commentaries
9-11
CIA
Corporatism
Economics
Government / The Elite
Imperialism
Iraq War
Media
Police State / Military
Science / Health
Voting Integrity
War on Terrorism

SEARCH/ARCHIVES
Advanced Search
View the Archives

E-mail this Link   Printer Friendly

CORPORATISM -
-

Corporate Invasion

Posted in the database on Thursday, November 03rd, 2005 @ 15:28:31 MST (1617 views)
by Denise Kersten    The American Prospect  

Untitled Document

As corporate jingles, slogans, and logos creep into every corner of our lives, the national parks have become some of the last commercial-free oases. It’s nearly as hard to spot a corporate logo in a national park as it is to sight a rare bird. But this could soon change, as Republicans are seeking private-sector alternatives to fund the parks.

In late September, legislative language drafted by Representative Richard Pombo, chairman of the House Resources Committee, was leaked to the public. The language proposed closing the federal deficit by selling 15 sites to commercial developers and energy companies, slathering the parks in advertising, and peddling naming rights for visitor centers, trails, and other park features.

An outcry ensued, and Pombo backed off. Don’t take the nearly 300-page document seriously, his aides said. It was written only to influence other lawmakers to support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (what a relief).

Pombo’s plan to throw open the door to commercialization in the parks may not be feasible yet. But his disavowal doesn't mark the end of efforts to help corporations get a foothold in the parks. This month, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella released for public comment a proposal to revamp the agency’s rules on philanthropy and donor recognition. Under the plan, the cash-strapped Park Service could turn its managers into a network of fund-raisers.

Park officials would reward donors by erecting “commemorative installations” such as benches and plaques, and by naming rooms in park facilities in their honor. Event sponsors could put their logos on banners, signs, and facilities and distribute product samples (as long as they relate to the purpose of the event or are consumable). Employees attempting to raise funds would not, however, be allowed to “portray Congress, the [Interior] Department, or their bureau as having failed to meet their responsibilities.”

The proposal also would allow the Park Service to raise money through corporate marketing campaigns “designed to associate the interests of corporations with the mission and goals of the [Park Service].” Requests for such campaigns were previously the responsibility of the National Park Foundation, a separate entity created by Congress in 1967 to raise funds for the parks.

Current rules prohibit Park Service employees from conducting any form of solicitation. The new proposal doesn’t just allow fund raising; it encourages park officials to seek out private and corporate gifts and to create incentives to attract cash. “The bulk of the policy appears to be a how-to-solicit-corporations guide,” says Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Washington-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” says David Barna, the Park Service’s chief of public affairs. “It’s a more positive document [than the current policy]. Fund raising is not viewed as a negative thing.” He says congressional appropriations currently cover only 85 percent to 90 percent of the Park Service budget; the rest comes through visitor fees, licenses and royalties, philanthropy, and other sources.

In fact, park superintendents have been honing their sales pitches for years, says Bill Wade, a spokesman for the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Employees and a former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park. “Because of budget deficiencies, superintendents are being held accountable for going out and doing fund raising,” he says. “I guess this is an attempt to make that more OK to do.”

The expectation that park officials will find donors is one reason to worry about the proposal, which blurs the lines on who’s allowed to make gifts and how they can be recognized. The existing rules, for example, specifically forbid donations from companies that rely on park leases or contracts, and from individuals or businesses that have lawsuits pending against the Park Service. Under the new policy, it would be up to regional or local managers to guarantee that gifts up to $1 million are appropriate.

Could snowmobile companies give money to Yellowstone? What about personal-water-craft manufacturers funding the Cape Cod National Seashore? The policy calls for managers to decline gifts that would create controversy or the appearance of a conflict of interest, but lays out no hard rules. “It’s a smell test,” says Ruch. Without explicit guidelines, pressure to raise funds could induce some officials to lower their standards. And the Pombo proposal is a reminder of the competing visions for the parks.

The same looseness plagues the new rules on donor recognition and sponsored events, which are supposed to be “appropriate, tasteful, and unobtrusive” and “may not allow recognition that suggests commercialization of the parks.” Critics point to the August 2003 “NFL Kickoff Live From the National Mall Presented by Pepsi Vanilla,” which featured performances by Britney Spears, Aerosmith, and others. “The current leadership maintained that this wasn’t commercialization,” Ruch says.

The benefit of extra funding doesn’t warrant the cost of establishing harmful precedents. “When you boil it all down, this doesn’t raise very much money,” says Charles Clusen of the National Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental group. “The real answer to the needs of the parks still is appropriations.”



Go to Original Article >>>

The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Looking Glass News. Click the disclaimer link below for more information.
Email: editor@lookingglassnews.org.

E-mail this Link   Printer Friendly




Untitled Document
Disclaimer
Donate | Fair Use Notice | Who We Are | Contact
Copyright 2005 Looking Glass News.