How do members of the professionally-skeptic news media spend their time and money at conventions? Sitting around holding Socratic discussions about policy and truth? Researching claims made by politicians? Drinking to relieve the boredom? Perhaps they do all of these things, but according to Politicker, some of them may have been spending some time and money buying Barack Obama souvenirs, too — and using fake names to do it:
Members of the media have apparently been using “fake” names to buy official Obama gear and contribute to the Obama campaign inside the Time Warner Cable Arena where the President is due to speak in a few minutes. During our travels around the arena, Politicker spotted a souvenir stand in one of the press stands selling T-shirts and buttons supporting President Barack Obama, “Democrats Are Hot” bumper stickers and other official Obama merchandise.
The souvenir stand was in a secure area only accessible to those with a media credential and buying campaign gear means contributing to the campaign, so we asked the woman working the cash register whether anyone at the press stand had been making purchases. Her answers were quite surprising.
The woman working at the souvenir stand told us she hadn’t been “too busy” during the day, but had seen business pick up in the past half hour or so. She then asked us whether we wanted to buy anything. When we informed her that our status as a reporter means we don’t buy campaign gear, she suggested a strategy other members of the media have apparently used to pick up their Obama swag.
“Have you ever thought of making up a fake name? That’s what the other guys do,” she said.
The skeptic in me would first point out that a good salesperson would make a pitch aimed at breaking down one’s defenses. After all, isn’t that what politicians at conventions do too? I’d tell a potential customer that lots of his colleagues buy my wares, and just do it on the Q-T, off the record, and definitely hush-hush.
And that may be what happened here, but Politicker’s Hunter Walker includes a critical piece of data, as well as a picture. The vendor in question operated in an area only accessible to the media. While it’s possible that the campaigns might never have sold a single piece of merchandise in the media area and wasted three days’ worth of salary on the staffers, it seems a little … unlikely.
So who did buy that swag? I’ve gotten my hands on the super-secret list of names*, but you’ll have to help me out in figuring out their true identities:
- Matt Christhews
- Ryan Brilliams
- Jerry McDonnell
- Anne Draymitchell
- Mel Dullsville
They’re pretty clever, these media folk.
Speaking of vendors, it seems that the ones working for themselves weren’t buying their own product. Earlier this week, Yahoo News interviewed a few at the Democratic convention, and they’re not too keen on Obama, the DNC, and will end up losing their shirts:
Rows of enthusiastic vendors hawking Obama buttons, tote bags, puppets, T-shirts and other memorabilia seem to be doing brisk business beside the Charlotte Convention Center, where thousands of delegates and members of the media have descended for the three-day Democratic National Convention. But just across the street, and behind a row of low metal barricades, a cluster of unhappy vendors—many of whom traveled hundreds of miles to attend the convention and are ardent Obama supporters—say they paid thousands of dollars to rent stalls that were placed in an out-of-the-way, unmarked parking lot where they are steadily losing money. …
“There’s no traffic, no exposure,” said a vendor named Debrah, who didn’t want to give her full name because she’s a former Obama campaign staffer in Ohio. Debrah’s team paid about $3,000 to rent a tent in the parking lot, where they’ve set up a stall selling “Hope” buttons, Obama T-shirts and Obama family tote bags. “The feeling is that the [DNC host committee] took our money and put us in a parking lot and didn’t offer us any support,” she said. Debrah, like Stowe and Nation, says she doesn’t blame President Obama or his campaign for the situation, but that many vendors do. “Unfortunately, for most of the vendors it’s been a bad experience and they’re holding it against Obama.”
One such vendor is Gwendolyn Clarke, who traveled from New York with her son and daughter’s bottled water business, called NAL Water. The South Carolina water goes for $3 a bottle, but the Clarke family quickly marked that down to $1 after an insurance company called Humana began giving away free bottled water. The Clarkes maintain the practice of giving away items is against the rules they agreed to.
“I’m not listening to the rhetoric anymore. You can’t treat small businesses like that because we are the backbone of the country,” said Clarke, who volunteers for Obama’s campaign in New York. Clarke says she will “absolutely not” vote for Obama in November, and will instead support Mitt Romney.
Well, she didn’t build that infrastructure for her small business, so don’t expect Obama to have much sympathy for her.