PDF Version

NEWS RELEASE
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (202) 588-7746
For Immediate Release: February 27th, 2001

Nader: Don't Commercialize the Postal Service, Library of Congress, Smithsonian

Ralph Nader and Commercial Alert sent letters today to the heads of the U.S. Postal Service, Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution urging them not to commercialize these entities, and asking them what limits they have set on such commercialism. The letters are below.

Following is the letter to Postmaster General William J. Henderson.

Dear Mr. Henderson:

According to The New York Times, the U.S. Postal Service is launching the “Postal Ad Network,” to sell advertising space on mail trucks, mail collection boxes, in post offices lobbies and on the Postal Service Web-site.

This is not a high point in the history of the Postal Service. The Postal Service began in our country, among other things, as a way to keep families and communities together. Since the Continental Congress named Benjamin Franklin our first Postmaster General in1775, the Postal Service has acted a kind of social glue, by helping Americans communicate with each other through the mail.

The Postal Service’s ad plans show contempt for the communities it has helped to build. Postal Service trucks drive through nearly every neighborhood in America. By turning these trucks into rent-a-billboards, the Postal Service will infuse more crass commercialism into every community in our country.

Four states currently ban billboards, as do hundreds of cities and counties. By these local laws and ordinances, communities try to defend themselves against the commercialization of nearly everything, and the efforts of corporate advertisers to put an ad in front of our eyes at every waking moment. But under the Postal Ad Network plan, every time a Postal Service truck leaves the garage, it would violate the spirit of these ordinances and laws. Why is it your view that the Postal Service should ignore the wishes of citizens and their local governments?

Millions of Americans want to restore the bounds that used to keep the mercantile impulse in check. A 1999 poll by Louis Harris & Associates found that 39% of Americans have personally worried “a great deal” that advertising and commercialism are too intrusive in our society. Don’t we have enough billboards already?

Still worse, under the “Postal Ad Network” the federal government and the Postal Service would tacitly endorse the products advertised. Why do you believe it is the proper role for the federal government to imply an endorsement of these commercial products?

The Postal Service has issued a policy regarding commercial advertising. Only advertising for commercial goods will be allowed. But the policy raises more questions than it answers. For example, how will the Postal Service select which products to promote? Will it adopt standards regarding the conduct of the corporations whose products it promotes? Will the Postal Service promote the products of serious polluters? Corporate felons? Monopolists? Tortfeasors? Violators of workplace health and safety laws? Corporate welfare recipients?

The Postal Service policy sets forth few limits regarding the extent and scope of advertising allowed. Are there any lines you won’t cross? How much advertising will you allow? How far will you go? Will you sell naming rights to post offices? Will you have your delivery people to wear advertising on their uniforms? Will you sell the right to place corporate logos on postage stamps, as was discussed and rejected by the Postal Service in the Eighties?

Please consider what messages are precluded or crowded out. Our country is buried in sales pitches, to the great detriment of non-commercial messages. Is the best and most important message that the Postal Service has to offer—to buy still more soda pop or credit cards? Don’t more worthy messages exist? Why does the Postal Service want to promote merchandise instead of the voluntarism and community-building which was the hallmark of the first Postmaster General? Are you thinking about the public backlash that may occur?

We do not believe it is the proper role of the Postal Service or the federal government to act as a billboard for the marketeers of the land. Please stick to your core mission of delivering the mail. We are enclosing a report we published in 1983 on the Postal Service called The Postal Precipice for your interest.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Gary Ruskin, Director, Commercial Alert
<--------------letter ends here------------->

Following is the letter to Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress.

Dear Dr. Billington:

On November 29th, the Library of Congress held a public ceremony for Coca-Cola in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building. At that event, you invited Coca-Cola and its executives to bask in the public splendor of the Library of Congress, in exchange for a donation of 50 years of Coke ads. On that evening, you turned the Library of Congress into a tawdry prop for the promotion of the Coca-Cola corporate name and its soda products.

Such crass commercialism in the Library of Congress is disrespectful to Thomas Jefferson and his ideals. More than anyone else, Jefferson is the founder of the Library of Congress. In 1816, Jefferson wrote “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Following the Coca-Cola event, we would like to know the extent to which you intend to use the Library of Congress to promote corporations or commercial products. By what standards do you determine the corporations and products that the Library of Congress may promote? In your view, are there any drawbacks to the use of the Library of Congress to promote corporations or their products? What limits you have set on the commercialization of the Library of Congress? Would the Library of Congress promote corporations that are polluters? Corporate felons? Tortfeasors? Corporate welfare recipients? Corporations that pay no taxes?

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Gary Ruskin, Director, Commercial Alert <-------------letter ends here----------------->

Following is the letter to Lawrence Small, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Dear Mr. Small:

On February 12th, the Smithsonian Institution held an event with K-Mart Inc. ostensibly to promote Black History Month. At that event, the Smithsonian and K-Mart were “partners” in promoting a mobile history exhibit emblazoned with giant red K-Mart signs. In effect, you allowed the taxpayer-financed Smithsonian Institution to be used to prop up K-Mart Inc. and its public relations efforts.

Following the K-Mart event, we would like to know the extent to which you intend to use the Smithsonian to promote corporations or commercial products. By what standards do you determine the corporations and products the Smithsonian may promote? In your view, are there any drawbacks to the use of the Smithsonian to promote corporations or their products? What limits you have 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?

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Gary Ruskin, Director, Commercial Alert <-------------letter ends here---------------->

Commercial Alert opposes the excesses of commercialism, advertising and marketing. For more information, see Commercial Alert’s website at http://www.commercialalert.org.

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PDF Version

NEWS RELEASE
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (202) 588-7746
For Immediate Release: February 27th, 2001

Nader: Don't Commercialize the Postal Service, Library of Congress, Smithsonian

Ralph Nader and Commercial Alert sent letters today to the heads of the U.S. Postal Service, Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution urging them not to commercialize these entities, and asking them what limits they have set on such commercialism. The letters are below.

Following is the letter to Postmaster General William J. Henderson.

Dear Mr. Henderson:

According to The New York Times, the U.S. Postal Service is launching the “Postal Ad Network,” to sell advertising space on mail trucks, mail collection boxes, in post offices lobbies and on the Postal Service Web-site.

This is not a high point in the history of the Postal Service. The Postal Service began in our country, among other things, as a way to keep families and communities together. Since the Continental Congress named Benjamin Franklin our first Postmaster General in1775, the Postal Service has acted a kind of social glue, by helping Americans communicate with each other through the mail.

The Postal Service’s ad plans show contempt for the communities it has helped to build. Postal Service trucks drive through nearly every neighborhood in America. By turning these trucks into rent-a-billboards, the Postal Service will infuse more crass commercialism into every community in our country.

Four states currently ban billboards, as do hundreds of cities and counties. By these local laws and ordinances, communities try to defend themselves against the commercialization of nearly everything, and the efforts of corporate advertisers to put an ad in front of our eyes at every waking moment. But under the Postal Ad Network plan, every time a Postal Service truck leaves the garage, it would violate the spirit of these ordinances and laws. Why is it your view that the Postal Service should ignore the wishes of citizens and their local governments?

Millions of Americans want to restore the bounds that used to keep the mercantile impulse in check. A 1999 poll by Louis Harris & Associates found that 39% of Americans have personally worried “a great deal” that advertising and commercialism are too intrusive in our society. Don’t we have enough billboards already?

Still worse, under the “Postal Ad Network” the federal government and the Postal Service would tacitly endorse the products advertised. Why do you believe it is the proper role for the federal government to imply an endorsement of these commercial products?

The Postal Service has issued a policy regarding commercial advertising. Only advertising for commercial goods will be allowed. But the policy raises more questions than it answers. For example, how will the Postal Service select which products to promote? Will it adopt standards regarding the conduct of the corporations whose products it promotes? Will the Postal Service promote the products of serious polluters? Corporate felons? Monopolists? Tortfeasors? Violators of workplace health and safety laws? Corporate welfare recipients?

The Postal Service policy sets forth few limits regarding the extent and scope of advertising allowed. Are there any lines you won’t cross? How much advertising will you allow? How far will you go? Will you sell naming rights to post offices? Will you have your delivery people to wear advertising on their uniforms? Will you sell the right to place corporate logos on postage stamps, as was discussed and rejected by the Postal Service in the Eighties?

Please consider what messages are precluded or crowded out. Our country is buried in sales pitches, to the great detriment of non-commercial messages. Is the best and most important message that the Postal Service has to offer—to buy still more soda pop or credit cards? Don’t more worthy messages exist? Why does the Postal Service want to promote merchandise instead of the voluntarism and community-building which was the hallmark of the first Postmaster General? Are you thinking about the public backlash that may occur?

We do not believe it is the proper role of the Postal Service or the federal government to act as a billboard for the marketeers of the land. Please stick to your core mission of delivering the mail. We are enclosing a report we published in 1983 on the Postal Service called The Postal Precipice for your interest.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Gary Ruskin, Director, Commercial Alert
<--------------letter ends here------------->

Following is the letter to Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress.

Dear Dr. Billington:

On November 29th, the Library of Congress held a public ceremony for Coca-Cola in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building. At that event, you invited Coca-Cola and its executives to bask in the public splendor of the Library of Congress, in exchange for a donation of 50 years of Coke ads. On that evening, you turned the Library of Congress into a tawdry prop for the promotion of the Coca-Cola corporate name and its soda products.

Such crass commercialism in the Library of Congress is disrespectful to Thomas Jefferson and his ideals. More than anyone else, Jefferson is the founder of the Library of Congress. In 1816, Jefferson wrote “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Following the Coca-Cola event, we would like to know the extent to which you intend to use the Library of Congress to promote corporations or commercial products. By what standards do you determine the corporations and products that the Library of Congress may promote? In your view, are there any drawbacks to the use of the Library of Congress to promote corporations or their products? What limits you have set on the commercialization of the Library of Congress? Would the Library of Congress promote corporations that are polluters? Corporate felons? Tortfeasors? Corporate welfare recipients? Corporations that pay no taxes?

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Gary Ruskin, Director, Commercial Alert <-------------letter ends here----------------->

Following is the letter to Lawrence Small, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Dear Mr. Small:

On February 12th, the Smithsonian Institution held an event with K-Mart Inc. ostensibly to promote Black History Month. At that event, the Smithsonian and K-Mart were “partners” in promoting a mobile history exhibit emblazoned with giant red K-Mart signs. In effect, you allowed the taxpayer-financed Smithsonian Institution to be used to prop up K-Mart Inc. and its public relations efforts.

Following the K-Mart event, we would like to know the extent to which you intend to use the Smithsonian to promote corporations or commercial products. By what standards do you determine the corporations and products the Smithsonian may promote? In your view, are there any drawbacks to the use of the Smithsonian to promote corporations or their products? What limits you have 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?

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Gary Ruskin, Director, Commercial Alert <-------------letter ends here---------------->

Commercial Alert opposes the excesses of commercialism, advertising and marketing. For more information, see Commercial Alert’s website at http://www.commercialalert.org.

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