Directors of arts and civic organizations are discovering that self-sacrifice pays off when it comes to fundraising. Richard Koshalek, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, gives up much of his personal time because of the pressing need to "be around wealthy people every single day." You can't just ask them for money out of the blue, he says, "You have to be one of them." It is called "living the life" in the trade and it means that arts and civic leaders are developing higher "lifestyle requirements" (i.e. $25,000 entertainment allowances, BMW's and housing that will allow them to entertain the wealthy as equals). The advantage of being a social chameleon, says Mr. Koshalek (who prefers other metaphors) is that "In meeting rich donors, I can talk about what they like. I travel where they travel, read what they read"... And save on the expense of maintaining a personal identity as well. (WSJ 5/26/99)
Big Ears in the Sky
Business Week reports that business leaders themselves are waking up to the surveillance realities of the National Security Agency. The NSA along with Britain, Canada and 'New Zealand operate a network of spy satellites, listening stations and powerful search engines that can eavesdrop on any phone call or electronic communication crossing national borders. John E Pike, a military analyst at the Federation of American Scientists warns the surveillance network, known as Echelon, outstrips anything George Orwell ever imagined. Fortunately he offers some fine advice. "Just get used to the fact," he cautions, "Big Brother is listening." Just get used to it... sounds like we might also want to learn a few more phrases, like "Sit", "Roll over" and "Play dead". (BW 5/31/99)
The state of California announced it will be selling confidential salary information about state citizens to banks, car dealers and other creditors. For a fee of $5 to $10 each, "qualified creditors" will be able to access the earnings of some 14 million Californians on the Internet. The good news is that written permission is required from each resident before information may be accessed. The even better news is that this industry-written bill avoids excessive government interference by not requiring creditors to keep cumbersome records showing proof of having obtained those written permissions. It's an honor system. A gentleman's agreement. In addition, we have the word of William Skowronnek, president of the company operating the system, that "We realize that this information is private. We don't give it to everyone." What more assurances could we ever ask for? (LAT 6/3/99)
Positive Spin Dept.
Once upon a time, going bankrupt was a cause for shame, but now times have changed, particularly around Seattle, Washington. Should you suffer bankruptcy in the Pacific Northwest, you may look forward to receiving a personal letter from a car dealership named Sound of Puyallup. The letter, signed by a Justin Hanson, begins with the word "Congratulations!". Celebrations are in order not only because Sound of Puyallup extends loans regardless of past credit, but for a deeper reason. Mr. Hanson writes, "It has been brought to my attention, through a source of public knowledge, that you have successfully completed a bankruptcy." Sure sounds better than "Congratulations, you are flat broke." But not by much. Sounds almost like graduating from college.
The Con Goes On
Do you worry about what happens to white collar criminals once they leave prison? Now there is an organization willing to employ their talents -- on the corporate lecture circuit. A speakers agency called Pros and the Cons, has been sending out a parade of convicted embezzlers like Whitewater figure Webster Hubbel to speak to corporations willing to pay $1000 or more for the edifying experience (a figure slightly higher than what blue collar criminals can expect). Part of the reason for this disparity is explained by the Wall Street Journal, referring to Barry Minkow, a embezzler of $26 million: "The very attributes that enabled Mr. Minkow to hoodwink sophisticated bankers and private investors -- charm, aplomb, ingenuity -- served him well as a speaker." Apparently corporate audiences appreciate one of their own... (WSJ 5/25/99)