Booth, banners, and bias?

I've been trying to wrap my mind around this article, which excoriates a medical society for making money at its show by selling sponsorships and booth space.

I get that it's of public interest because of the connection to public funds through Medicare and Medicaid, but this article seems to imply that any financial relationship between an association and its industry suppliers--including selling booths and banners--will bias the organization toward its sponsors and exhibitors (and advertisers, etc., etc.). But this isn't unique to medical societies by any means: Exhibits and sponsorships are major sources of revenue for many associations.

So, is the traditional trade show/sponsorship model causing all our associations to provide biased education?

If so:

• Do we only care if it's healthcare-related (which seems to be the case. I've never been to a large association convention that didn't have a trade show floor and sponsors for everything from bags to banners to room keys and phone-charging stations, but I've never seen any public criticism of those shows for the practice)?

• How do we keep those financial relationships from tainting what the association does?

• Or do we need a new revenue model that eliminates the (possible, perceptual) problem by severing all financial ties between an association and its industry suppliers? Hard to imagine what that would look like, but I'm guessing reg fees would have to climb pretty astronomically, and attendees would miss out on learning about new products, which of course is a big part of the reason many attend.

If not, how do we combat this perception?

While it's easy to bash Big Pharma for pretty much anything, it seems to me that if it's wrong for one group to do, it's wrong for all. My question is, is it wrong?

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