Over the weekend, Washington held its annual event to honor the fourth estate: the White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD). The event itself gets a lot of fanfare, but there are actually a variety of parties the night before celebrating the work of journalists — and a lot of them come with some pretty sweet swag.
One of the most coveted invitations is the Time-People party because it gives out notoriously enormous swag bags, filled with everything from gift cards for free Soulcycle classes and cupcakes to luxury beauty items.
While companies may participate to support their love of White House correspondents and the work they do to keep government accountable, it’s more than likely they’re hoping their products will be seen and talked about by this influential crowd in updates on social media or even on air, in the case of jewelry or clothing thats potentially purchased from Soft Surroundings.
Of note: The Federal Trade Commission has rules about endorsing products that you did not pay to purchase — the idea being that if you received the product for free, you may have a slightly different view of the product than if you had to pay for it, and that might be considered deceptive advertising. The FTC pushes for disclosure in these situations whether you are a blogger or a member of the “paper and ink” media. We also know that a lot of newsrooms have ethics rules on the dollar amount of items their reporters are allowed to accept.
So filmmaker Patrick Gavin, who produced last year’s “Nerd Prom,” asked if we’d stand outside with him and see if anyone wanted Sunlight to take that 13-pound bag off their hands. What better way to celebrate the never-ending party that is our nation’s capital (and bring some attention to Sunlight and Political Party Time!) than to get our very own swag bags and use them to help people learn more about the inner workings of their democracy!
He produced this short film about our efforts:
We’re happy to say that after a couple hours and a light rain, we collected five swag bags (and some change) from generous journalists and party-goers. After searching for all the items in one of the bags, we found the retail price to be around $530. Check out the list of all of the vendors who donated items to each bag on the right.
And, the best part is, we’re giving you a chance to get your very own swag bag and contribute to Sunlight! We’re putting two on eBay, and you can bid on them here: Swag Bag 1 and Swag Bag 2. In addition to the auctions, our friends at Cards Against Humanity are going to partner with us and host an auction for Swag Bag 3! (Stay tuned for details!)
Finally, we’ll have a little party to celebrate with Sunlight’s friends and supporters and take bids on Swag Bags 4 and 5! Look for updates here on our blog, and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts for how you can get your hands on one and support our mission of transparency and open government.
And we’ll be disclosing donations raised from the sale of the bags on our website, in accordance with our gift acceptance policy.
By the way, we did see politicians attending the event but House ethics rules prohibit them from accepting swag bags at events.