December 14, 2018: Federal Prosecutors Are Investigating Trump Inauguration Spending, Branded Fruit is the New Event Swag Preferred by Big Brands, White House Won't Have a Press Holiday Party

1. FEDERAL PROSECUTORS ARE INVESTIGATING TRUMP INAUGURATION SPENDING: Manhattan federal prosecutors are investigating whether President Trump’s inaugural committee misused some of $107 million the event raised from donations. According to people familiar with the matter, the probe also is looking at whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the Trump administration or to influence official administration positions. The Wall Street Journal: "Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law. The investigation represents another potential legal threat to people who are or were in Mr. Trump’s orbit. Their business dealings and activities during and since the campaign have led to a number of indictments and guilty pleas. Many of the president’s biggest campaign backers were involved in the inaugural fund. The investigation partly arises out of materials seized in the federal probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s business dealings, according to people familiar with the matter. In April raids of Mr. Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents obtained a recorded conversation between Mr. Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, who worked on the inaugural events. In the recording, Ms. Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to a person familiar with the Cohen investigation. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t determine when the conversation between Mr. Cohen and Ms. Wolkoff took place, or why it was recorded. The recording is now in the hands of federal prosecutors in Manhattan, a person familiar with the matter said."

2. BRANDED FRUIT IS THE NEW EVENT SWAG PREFERRED BY BIG BRANDS: One of the latest trends in conference swag? Branded fruit. Lyft recently gave out branded avocados at an event, which provided a social media-friendly, edible gift—a trend that many major brands are hopping on in lieu of the usual stress balls and pens. Fast Company: "Not to be outdone, AT&T sent out branded pineapples to V.I.P. clients. And then Twitter gave out peaches at an event, each one featuring the iconic bird mascot on them. Soundcloud’s branded radishes were a particularly unexpected highlight of a party, and tasted good in salads. The woman behind this slightly weird trend sweeping through dozens of tech companies is Danielle Baskin, a San Francisco-based designer and visual artist best known for her work designing bicycle helmets. Branded fruit is a fun and exciting thing for a consumer to receive at a corporate event, but it also taps into a frustration and fatigue that many people feel about receiving the cheap, disposable swag churned out by the $24 billion promotional products industry. Baskin, who sources her fruit from local farms, has found a sustainable, useful alternative to crappy swag. 'I recently received a pair of sunglasses at an event, which I am never going to use because I wear regular glasses,' Baskin says. 'So they’re serving absolutely no purpose.' The origins of Baskin’s company, Branded Fruit, began as a bit of a joke. In 2015, Baskin had a friend whose startup Scroll Kit was acquired by WordPress. She was invited to a barbecue to celebrate the great news. When she asked what she could bring to the party, the host told her to bring some avocados. 'I thought it would be kind of funny to bring avocados with the Scroll Kit logo on them,' she says. Baskin tinkered around with some machines in her basement to find a way to emblazon the brand’s logo onto the avocados, and when she brought them to the party, she remembers people being very excited about them."

3. WHITE HOUSE WON'T HAVE A PRESS HOLIDAY PARTY: In another break from tradition, the White House has no plans to throw a holiday party for members of the press this year. Politico: "'The White House Christmas press party was not put on the holiday schedule this year,' a White House official said Thursday, adding that 'we have accommodated members of the media and their families who have asked to see the holiday decorations' by arranging open White House tours for them. The White House did not give a reason for not scheduling the gathering. The annual party had been panned by some critics, who said it blurred the ethical line between White House reporters and those they cover. The event is often attended by media executives, and network anchors have been known to fly into town to attend. Presidents of both parties have been criticized in the past for excluding journalists who covered their administrations less favorably. Trump’s White House did host a party for the press in 2017, though he and first lady Melania Trump attended only briefly and delivered remarks to the journalists gathered before leaving."


BEIJING:  IBTM China will take place August 28-29 at the China National Convention Centre. The event is slated to have more than 380 international and domestic exhibitors and more than 3,500 attendees. 

DALLAS/FORT WORTH:  The MTV Staying Alive Foundation and the Goss-Michael Foundation will hold the ninth annual MTV Re:Define benefit on March 29 at the Statler Dallas. The event will give out the inaugural MTV Re:Define Award, established to recognize excellence in contemporary art by a postgraduate fine arts student. 

LOS ANGELES:  The Lunar New Year Festival in Monterey Park will take place January 26-27. 

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NEW YORK:  MoMa PS1’s inaugural Black Women’s Film Conference, co-organized by the New Negress Film Society, will take place March 17. 

For information on upcoming events in New York, visit Masterplanner:

READINGTON, NEW JERSEY:  The 37th annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning will take place July 26-28, 2019, launching from Solberg Airport. The event has appointed Linda D’Adamo as the festival’s director of corporate partnerships. 

SEATTLE:  Eventcore, an event registration and technology solutions company, has hired Camille Beatty Falor as vice president of sales. 

TORONTO:  Newcom Media Inc. has acquired Two Plus One Group Inc., which produces the annual Mode Accessories Show. The next edition of the trade show, which highlights the fashion accessories industry, will take place January 27-29 at the Delta Hotel, Toronto Airport. 

The third annual Toronto Light Festival will take place January 18-March 3 in the Distillery District. 

WASHINGTON, D.C.:  Washingtonian: "Less than a year after a sexual harassment lawsuit rocked Mike Isabella‘s restaurant empire, the once $40 million company will go out of business by December 27. While his restaurant group attempted to reorganize through Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, today it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, meaning it will cease operations and liquidate its assets to pay its debts. Isabella is the first big-name chef to have his company completely collapse in the wake of a #MeToo scandal." 

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With contributions from Claire Hoffman in Los Angeles and Beth Kormanik, Michele Laufik, and Ian Zelaya in New York.

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