PDF Version

NEWS RELEASE
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (202) 588-7746
For Immediate Release: July 19th, 2001

Nader Criticizes Smithsonian Head For Proposed Naming Rights Deal With General Motors

Following a news report that the Smithsonian Institution has offered General Motors the right to name the museum’s new transportation hall for $10 million, Ralph Nader said that Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small “seems to recognize no limits to the commercialization of this historic, non-profit, taxpayer-supported institution. To let GM pay for, be associated with and influential over a transportation exhibit, given its decades long record of criminal convictions, buying up and displacing mass transit systems, producing unsafe and polluting cars, is to confess to a complete abdication of any standards of museum integrity and independence.”

The New York Times reported today that “one name under discussion” by the Smithsonian for the hall is the “General Motors Hall of Transportation.”

“There should be a congressional investigation into the numerous corporate payolas and alliances in recent years with the Smithsonian in order to determine how to disentangle this storied Washington institution from the tenacles of corporate commercialism,” Nader said.

Nader said that Mr. Small “has once again brought the Smithsonian to the brink of turning itself into a government-funded Hall of Hucksters.”

“If the Smithsonian needs money, it should come either from government funds or from non-profit foundations with no ax to grind and no desire for naming rights,” Nader said.

“I call upon Mr. Small to reverse this reckless course of action and to issue a bright-line policy establishing an independent, arms-length defense against commercial interests.”

“The Smithsonian does not exist to serve as an extension of corporate public relations departments,” Nader said.

On February 27, Nader and Commercial Alert sent a letter to Mr. Small regarding an event it conducted with K-Mart which “allowed the taxpayer-financed Smithsonian Institution to be used to prop up K-Mart Inc. and its public relations efforts.” The letter asked Mr. Small “ What limits have you set on the commercialization of the Smithsonian? Would the Smithsonian promote corporations that are polluters? Corporate felons? Tortfeasors?  Corporate welfare recipients? Corporations that pay no taxes?” Mr. Small did not reply to the letter.

Mr. Small has faced heavy criticism for his dealings with donors and willingness to commercialize the Smithsonian.  According to the New York Times, “In an unusual memorandum sent to the Board of Regents in May, a majority of members of the museum’s branch of the congress [of scholars] accused Lawrence M. Small, the Smithsonian secretary, of jeopardizing the institution’s integrity with agreements he had reached with multimillion-dollar donors.”

“Apparently Mr. Small doesn’t understand why it is improper to turn the Smithsonian into a GM billboard,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert.

Ralph Nader founded Commercial Alert to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy.

For more information about commercialism and mismanagement at the Smithsonian, see Commercial Alert’s Smithsonian web page at http://www.commercialalert.org/smithsonian/index.html.

Commercial Alert’s website is at http://www.commercialalert.org.

-30-

PDF Version

NEWS RELEASE
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (202) 588-7746
For Immediate Release: July 19th, 2001

Nader Criticizes Smithsonian Head For Proposed Naming Rights Deal With General Motors

Following a news report that the Smithsonian Institution has offered General Motors the right to name the museum’s new transportation hall for $10 million, Ralph Nader said that Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small “seems to recognize no limits to the commercialization of this historic, non-profit, taxpayer-supported institution. To let GM pay for, be associated with and influential over a transportation exhibit, given its decades long record of criminal convictions, buying up and displacing mass transit systems, producing unsafe and polluting cars, is to confess to a complete abdication of any standards of museum integrity and independence.”

The New York Times reported today that “one name under discussion” by the Smithsonian for the hall is the “General Motors Hall of Transportation.”

“There should be a congressional investigation into the numerous corporate payolas and alliances in recent years with the Smithsonian in order to determine how to disentangle this storied Washington institution from the tenacles of corporate commercialism,” Nader said.

Nader said that Mr. Small “has once again brought the Smithsonian to the brink of turning itself into a government-funded Hall of Hucksters.”

“If the Smithsonian needs money, it should come either from government funds or from non-profit foundations with no ax to grind and no desire for naming rights,” Nader said.

“I call upon Mr. Small to reverse this reckless course of action and to issue a bright-line policy establishing an independent, arms-length defense against commercial interests.”

“The Smithsonian does not exist to serve as an extension of corporate public relations departments,” Nader said.

On February 27, Nader and Commercial Alert sent a letter to Mr. Small regarding an event it conducted with K-Mart which “allowed the taxpayer-financed Smithsonian Institution to be used to prop up K-Mart Inc. and its public relations efforts.” The letter asked Mr. Small “ What limits have you set on the commercialization of the Smithsonian? Would the Smithsonian promote corporations that are polluters? Corporate felons? Tortfeasors?  Corporate welfare recipients? Corporations that pay no taxes?” Mr. Small did not reply to the letter.

Mr. Small has faced heavy criticism for his dealings with donors and willingness to commercialize the Smithsonian.  According to the New York Times, “In an unusual memorandum sent to the Board of Regents in May, a majority of members of the museum’s branch of the congress [of scholars] accused Lawrence M. Small, the Smithsonian secretary, of jeopardizing the institution’s integrity with agreements he had reached with multimillion-dollar donors.”

“Apparently Mr. Small doesn’t understand why it is improper to turn the Smithsonian into a GM billboard,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert.

Ralph Nader founded Commercial Alert to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy.

For more information about commercialism and mismanagement at the Smithsonian, see Commercial Alert’s Smithsonian web page at http://www.commercialalert.org/smithsonian/index.html.

Commercial Alert’s website is at http://www.commercialalert.org.

-30-