Walking into the exhibit hall at the Gaylord National Resort in Maryland this week, one would be forgiven for an inability to immediately tell the difference between any typical trade show that utilizes the space, and the Conservative Political Action Conference that is holding court here until Saturday. Pens and water bottles abound, along with bags to hold conventioneers’ booty, all lined up in booths marked off with blue and white bunting.
But look a little closer at what’s printed on the swag, as it’s widely known in the trade show business, and one can’t miss either the message or some of the more painful unaware metaphors. The Family Research Council, for instance, is handing out small blue balls emblazoned with an anti-same sex marriage symbol. The Susan B. Anthony List, a non-profit that declares itself dedicated to electing pro-life women but endorsed and financially supported many a male candidate in 2012, is handing out dark sunglasses. Accuracy in Media, which exists to “promote accuracy, fairness and balance in news reporting,” is selling (but not giving away) a variety of conservative swag, including bumper stickers, mousepads and T-shirts that one could easily find for sale in any tourist trap in Washington, D.C.. And the Charles Koch Institute — named after billionaire Charles Koch whose estranged brother Bill once bought four bottles of wine supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson but sued once their authenticity was strongly questioned — is handing out beer koozies.
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