The Hightower Report

Hide the Sponsor; and Online Voter Registration

Hide the Sponsor

It's time for another edition of the wide, wide, wide, wild world of sports!

Today, we're looking at a whole new ball game called "hide the sponsor." As you know, big-time sporting events are plastered with the names and glaring logos of corporate sponsors eager to link their brands with popular games, teams, and stars. With the recent Wall Street scandals and bailouts, however, some corporations have become a bit skittish about being seen in public and are actually hiding their light under a bushel.

Take professional golf tournaments, which are usually gaudy displays of corporate tagging, with logos on everything from tote bags to Tiger Woods. At this summer's U.S. Open, the corporate presence was conspicuous in its absence. Oh, it was there – you just couldn't see it.

The Open is a prestigious, upscale event that attracts such A-list sponsors as Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley. They host fabulous hospitality tents, with lavish food spreads and open bars, inviting their primo clients to hobnob with bankers, munch on foie gras, and sip martinis from glasses etched with the bank logo.

At this year's Open, however, the names of sponsoring banks were missing, and logos were taboo. Bank of America had laid out $400,000 to be a sponsor, Goldman Sachs paid $100,000, and Morgan Stanley ponied up $250,000. Yet, no table in the hospitality tent bore a bank's brand – even the pampered guests couldn't tell which outfit was hosting them!

Event planners have coined a new term for this phenomenon: "stealth spending." As a Bank of America spokesman explained, "Symbolism matters. We are right-sizing our hospitality for the current environment and tone and mood of the country."

Only Wall Street would spend so much to play sponsorship peek-a-boo.


Online Voter Registration

Ah, progress!

I'm not exactly a model citizen for the technologically advanced, Internet-connected world we now inhabit. For example, I don't even have a doorbell at my house. Yet, while I'm something of a Luddite, I do have a website – www.jimhightower.com – and I simply couldn't do what I do without it.

In the bigger picture, I'm impressed – excited even – by the little-"D" democratic possibilities that the Internet can add to our political system. Take something as basic as voter registration. America proudly asserts that everyone has a civic duty to vote, yet most jurisdictions make registration a cumbersome and costly process. Instead, why not offer sign-ups online? Millions of Americans pay bills online, bank online, book flights online, and so forth – so let's use the technology to ease the democratic process as well.

The good folks in Oregon are doing just that. Led by young voters working through such first-rate grassroots groups as the Oregon Bus Project, the Legislature and governor recently OK'd an electronic registration system that will be in place for next year's elections. It's a simple and inexpensive way to get more people involved in our democratic process – especially young people who practically live online.

Anyone with a valid driver's license already has his or her essential information and signature on file at the local department of motor vehicles. Using the Internet, people can now direct that agency to transfer their signatures to election officials and – bingo! – they are registered to vote. Both Arizona and Washington state have already implemented this process with great success, enhancing democratic participation by their citizens.

Why not your state? For information, connect with the Oregon Bus Project: www.busproject.org.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

corporate sponsorship, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, voter registration, Oregon Bus Project

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