The White House Correspondents Assn., which has seen its annual scholarship dinner evolve into a weekend-long series of parties where A-list celebrities and reality stars overshadow policymakers and members of the press, is drawing the line at a new entrant this year: A gifting suite.
Politico obtained a legal threat letter that the attorney for the WHCA sent to GBK Prods., a marketing firm that specializes in gifting lounges and plans for a suite this weekend as a “thank you” to stars who will be attending the annual dinner on Saturday. The firm had teamed with Creative Coalition, which has been lining up a series of actors to attend events this weekend and also meet with lawmakers to advocate for arts funding.
In the letter, WHCA attorney George A. Lehner objects to the use of the term “White House Correspondents Dinner Thank You Lounge” in marketing materials for the gifting suite, noting that it creates a “false impression” that the WHCA has sanctioned the event. (According to Politico, GBK Prods. sent one e-mail promoting their suite as a “GBK & The Creative Coalition White House Correspondence [sic] Weekend Gift Lounge.”) The org is in the process of obtaining trademark registration for WHCA.
Lehner writes that GBK should have corrective action in place by the end of business on Thursday, and if they do not hear from GBK by Wednesday, they will take legal action.
While the annual dinner is a bonanza of attention to the WHCA, members have complained in recent years that the purpose of the fete is getting lost in the surreal mix of glitter and government: A scholarship program for student journalists. In fact, their objections to the gifting suites has shades of what happened to the Sundance Film Festival, which watched as the event evolved from a relatively small focus on independent cinema in the 1980s to a seen-and-be-seen stop for twentysomething celebrities in Park City, gift suites included.