Democratic convention swag: Who’s paying?

A look into the tote bag offers some clues

CHARLOTTE — In the spirit of CJR’s 2008 list of swag from the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, below is an inventory of the freebies found in the tote bag given to credentialed media at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week.

This list isn’t merely fun. The Democratic National Convention Committee reneged on voluntarily disclosing the names of convention contributors prior to the event, so there remain many questions about whose money is paying for this convention and how (see Roll Call’s good, detailed, September 3rd explainer on that). We’ll have some answers on October 15th, when donor reports are due to the Federal Election Commission. Until then, we can look for clues in the swag bag.

One tote bag, black, bearing the circular DNC logo and the AT&T logo. AT&T developed official phone apps for the Democratic and Republican conventions. In Charlotte, AT&T also upgraded its wi-fi network inside Bank of America stadium, where President Barack Obama was previously scheduled to accept his party’s nomination for a second term on Thursday night.

One pedometer adorned with the words “UnitedHealth Group” and “2012 Democratic National Convention.”

One iPad or eReader case, black, embossed unobtrusively with a Belk department store logo. Belk was born in 1888 in Monroe, North Carolina, just southeast of Charlotte. Magnets and velcro included.

One Charlotte magazine, not to be confused with Charlotte magazine. This Charlotte sports a tagline of “2012 official visitors guide and map,” and is produced by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, a tourism organization that receives some public funding from hotel taxes, and Pace Communications, an established custom publishing company out of Greensboro, generally known for publishing airline magazines. The magazine is branded with the “Charlotte’s Got A Lot” campaign, run by the Charlotte Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Editorial” content—surrounded by ads from The Ballantyne Hotel, Marriott, Amtrak and some local museums—includes profile blurbs and area attraction tips from local people including wrestler Ric Flair and Dr. Dan Murrey, who is the chairman of the DNC host committee.

One lanyard branded with the DNC logo.

One paper fan with the words “We make it possible” on the front and a Charlotte map on the back along with a list of convention sponsors, including: AT&T; Bank of America; Duke Energy; Time Warner Cable; Charlotte’s Channel 46, WJZY, which is owned by Capitol Broadcasting (the Raleigh-based North Carolina broadcast powerhouse behind WRAL, a strong TV station in the Raleigh market); Shaw, a Fortune 500 industrial company that makes power plants and has a pending merger agreement with CB&I, expected to close in early 2013; and, Florida Crystals Corp. (which perhaps, explains the brown-sugar bags found in some swag bags for delegates).

One Belk placard featuring a fashion model, designed to look like an iPad and perhaps intended as an iPad or e-reader screen protector.

One plastic fold-up water bottle from Piedmont Natural Gas, which serves the Carolinas and Tennessee and which is partnering with another company to fuel 12 buses with compressed natural gas during the convention. (This is actually useful swag for a convention-bound reporter, especially for Charlotte’s hot days when one has to pack light while carrying a laptop and other gear across uptown Charlotte).

One flyer promoting the Mint Museum’s Madeleine Albright exhibit, “Read My Pins.” The Mint, incidentally, has also been the recipient of more than 100 pieces of art from Heather and Tony Podesta, according to The Hill. The DC power couple are lobbyists, Tony Podesta is former White House chief of staff John Podesta’s brother, and Heather Podesta—who was quoted by Reuters recently as saying culture in Charlotte was “grim”— hosted a brunch for political friends and private corporate clients at the Mint Museum on Monday.

A second flyer with details on Time Warner Cable wi-fi access at convention venues.

One “Awesome Mini Game Pack” from out of Miami Beach, including cards for the game “Awkward Family Photos.”

What, no food in there? Nope. There’s plenty of free eating here, if you know where to go (start in the lounges provided by folks like Politico, Bloomberg and Google.) And for the hungry reporter on grunt duty covering street-level news? Well, she can measure how many steps she’s walked.

Correction: The original version of this post inadvertently included an editing notation. The relevant sentence has been corrected. CJR regrets the error.

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Andria Krewson is an independent journalist in Charlotte and a student in the University of North Carolina's master of arts in technology and digital communication. She worked at The Charlotte Observer for many years. Find her on Twitter at or