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Smithsonian and Corporate Sponsorship

StoryNovember 07, 1997
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A California businessman announced a $20 million gift to the Smithsonian Institution this week, the largest single donation to the museum in its 151 year history. The Smithsonian said they would use the money from multi- millionaire real estate developer Kenneth Behring to improve the National Museum of Natural History.

The $20 million gift is just the latest in a string deals that the Smithsonian, and many other cultural institutions nationwide, have been making with wealthy businessman and corporate America. This year the Smithsonian launched its own credit card and joined with business titans such as Ross Perot to update some exhibition halls.

Last month the Smithsonian opened a new exhibit called "Oil from the Arctic: Building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline." Exhibit times coincide with the 20th anniversary of the pipeline . It features a 21-foot section of the pipeline supplemented by stories from oil workers and Alaska natives, art photographs, maps and a 30-foot timeline. The "feel good" exhibit, which gives a rosy-eyed view of the 800-mile long pipeline, has been sponsored to the tune of $300,000 by the Alyeska Services Pipeline Company, a consortium of ARCO, British Petroleum, and Exxon that operates the pipeline.


  • Russell Mokhiber, the editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, a weekly publication that surveys corporate wrongdoing.
  • Charles Hamel, a former oil broker and whistleblower who — despite intense harassment by Alyeska — provided crucial information about corrosion on the Trans-Alaska pipeline to the media and the House Committee on Interior Affairs. He was the target of an undercover operation that Wackenhut corporation, a worldwide security company hired by Alyeska. Investigators combed through his garbage, set up a bogus environmental group, tapped his phones, computer searched his telephone records, and sent women to sleep with him to destroy his marriage.
  • Adam Kolton, of the Alaska Wilderness League, an environmental group based in Washington, DC. For more info: 202-544-5205

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