Professor Linda Sugin was quoted in a MarketWatch article discussing the legal arguments surrounding Jeff Bezos’s name being displayed throughout Smithsonian museums in exchange for a donation.
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’s name will be displayed on a new building at the National Air and Space Museum and in several additional places throughout the Smithsonian Institution for at least 50 years in exchange for his $200 million donation.
In addition to protecting against reputational risks, there’s another argument for putting time limits on naming rights, says Linda Sugin, a Fordham University law professor. A single large donation that bestows permanent naming rights discourages future gifts, Sugin says. She’s called for changing tax laws around charitable giving to discourage perpetuity. Her theory is that limiting the amount of time donors get naming rights would clear the way for more donations — and promote “competitive philanthropy” among the wealthiest philanthropists.
“If you can keep reselling the same naming rights, then it’s the gift that keeps giving,” Sugin told MarketWatch.
Many institutions see themselves as “supplicants at the mercy of these donors,” Sugin said. “That’s not a good situation for anybody. We want a law that gives institutions some power when they go into these negotiations.”
She added, “The super rich have a lot of power and influence over our public space and it’s important that we regulate that power and influence in a way that the public gets the most benefit from it.”