Political activism not welcome at Minden concert
July 20, 2012
The summer concert series in Minden Park is and will remain a nonpartisan event, a top Douglas County official emphatically stated Thursday.
“Nobody wants to be (politically) educated at a concert,” said Community Services Director Scott Morgan. “We wouldn’t allow it under any circumstance. No one should be pushing their agenda. If they are a sponsor, we thank them for sponsoring the event and tell them we’re here to enjoy the music. This is an issue that has made us think about our practices a little clearer in the future. It’s not what the concert series is about.”
Morgan was commenting on an uproar among members of the local Democratic Party objecting to a particular sponsor of the concert series, Americans for Prosperity, and the group’s previous plans to distribute promotional items at tonight’s show. Some Democrats were prepared to stage a counter protest.
“This is supposed to be a community, neighbor, friend and family event. We’ve never wanted to politicize it, and we don’t want to start now,” Cindy Trigg, chair of the Douglas County Democratic Central Committee, said in a phone message Thursday. “However, if they don’t pay attention to what they’ve been told, we do have something prepared to respond with.”
According to the nonpartisan FactCheck.org, Americans for Prosperity is a conservative organization founded by David H. Koch of Koch Industries. The organization advocates low taxes and limited government through rallies and a host of advertising, but does not directly endorse candidates.
Morgan said sponsorship of a concert ranges from $800-$1,000, which helps pay the performing artists.
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“The concerts are 100 percent dependent on sponsors,” he said. “But our sponsors should not be a contentious issues in the community. That’s not what we want.”
In AFP’s case, Morgan said, “The amount of recognition they’re going to get is what they already got in advertising as a sponsor.”
Morgan said the county doesn’t have an official policy regarding political activism at public concerts, but more of a practice. He said the parks and recreation department has denied sponsorships in the past for active political campaigns, and that they’ll remove any political signs put up in the park during the event.
“We want our events apolitical and nonpartisan. That’s our goal,” he said. “No education, no political agenda, and we don’t want to get into the political leanings of our donors either.”
The concert’s long-time title sponsor has been multinational conglomerate General Electric, which has a manufacturing plant in Minden, and which Morgan considers a local business.
“It’s 100 percent funded by donors and sponsors – there are no tax dollars going into these events,” he reiterated. “It’s always been a really cool event, and we want to keep it that way.
“We want to make it simple. At the end of the day, we want to do the right thing, and we’re trying to do that.”
Douglas County Commission Chair Lee Bonner, who participates in a committee to secure co-sponsors for the event, said today that the concert series has been losing about $3,000 a year. He said Americans For Prosperity Nevada State Director Adam Stryker approached him last year about sponsoring the event.
“He had come to one of these the last two years they’ve been in town and thought it was just a great community event,” Bonner said. “They approached me last year and said they would like to be a sponsor of one of the concerts. They’re nonpartisan. They want fiscal accountability and government responsibility. That’s their premise. I’m a supporter of Americans For Prosperity.”
Though he aligns himself with the group, Bonner said he didn’t solicit AFP’s sponsorship, nor did he want the concert to be politicized.
“People hear something and take it totally out of context,” he said. “The last thing we want to see is controversy. I think we can come up with the right policy and see where it goes.”
Bonner said when he saw the group’s touring bus, wrapped in messaging, he decided it wasn’t appropriate for the concert. He said he believed it was acceptable for the group to set up an informational table – until controversy erupted.
“The AFP was not told to do anything. They volunteered to not pass out literature. There wasn’t any demand at all,” he said. “They were very agreeable to the spirit and intent of the concert. We always agreed the bus would not be at the concert. That was never part of the issue.”
Around 11 a.m. today, Trigg called off her party’s counter measures due to the tragic shooting in Colorado Thursday night.
“In view of what happened in Colorado this morning I believe we need to rethink our response to any action by AFP,” she said in an e-mail. “Our bigger focus has been not to disturb our Friday evening concert series in our community because it has been such a success and enjoyed by so many families. An opportunity to spend a leisurely evening together with our children, neighbors and friends. Out of respect for the victims and their families and the community in Colorado I am requesting that while we are ready with a response to AFP that we do not respond to any solicitation or disrespect by them to our community. They have been requested to not display or distribute anything so everyone can enjoy the evening. Like President Obama said this morning, ‘There are other days for politics.’ Let us follow our President’s example.”
This afternoon, Stryker said the Democrats were making political hay out of a community event “we are proud to sponsor and look forward to sponsoring in the future.”
Stryker stressed that Americans for Prosperity is a conservative group without affiliation to a specific party.
“We’re nonpartisan and nonprofit,” he said.
He called the reaction to the group’s sponsorship “empty,” “bombastic,” and “laughable.” He said the group had planned on handing out wrist-bands, T-shirts and other merchandise with their logo.
“We would welcome discussion,” he said. “We’re happy to be able to spend a night in Minden with friends.”