We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
After Disney and other highly profitable travel industry powerhouses being disrobed by exposure during the prior Congress, the travel industry is getting further at pulling the wool over our eyes and the coins from our pockets in the current Congress, to add to their bottom lines.
If you’re not already a regular reader of the Washington Examiner’s opinion pages, you should be.That’s not just because I have a column there today, “Big Tourism Depends On K-Street PR Whiz”, but because under the editorial direction of Mark Tapscott it has blossomed into a rank of must read along with the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page.Indeed, recently it was announced that the owner of the Washington Examiner is purchasingthe Weekly Standard.
– the estimates I heard suggested that in order to raise $10 a head to give to the travel industry’s promotional fund, the government will likely have to impose a total fee of $25 to cover administrative overheads.
This seems to me to be one of the more straightforwardly stupid legislative proposals of the recent past.
BTW, there’s not a funny illustration of Mickey Mouse in this post, as this Journal of Technology: Law & Policy (June 2004) article points out, “Certain copyright holders, such as Disney …, notoriously guard their property against parody.”I don’t need to be attacked by a giant $40-billion+ revenues, $4+billion profitsmouse.Anyway, how much more parody of travel industry civic mindedness is needed here?
For those of you who want to read my latest Washington Examiner op-ed, here it is:
Big tourism depends on K Street pr whiz
By: Bruce Kesler OpEd Contributor | 6/27/09 8:41 AM
A former Freddie Mac public relations guru who helped generate the mortgage meltdown that sent the U.S. economy into a tailspin last year is behind this year's campaign by Walt Disney, Anheuser Busch, American Express, Orbitz and other corporate heavyweights to charge foreign travelers and U.S. taxpayers to subsidize advertising for their already immensely profitable industry.
Heart of the proposal is a $10 per-entry fee charge on foreign visitors to the U.S., with up to $100 million of the resulting revenue being used to fund a new entity known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP) associated with the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Taxpayers would put up $10 million in start-up funding for the CTP and its board of directors would be named by the Secretary of Commerce, drawn from travel industry executives. The Commerce Department would get 25 new employees and an $80 million boost to its personnel budget as a result.
For camouflage, the proposal allows the tourism industry to hold a voluntary referendum whether it is to be assessed a "matching" contribution of 20% of the entry fees collected. That would mean smaller tourism industry members who cater to domestic visitors would subsidize the biggies who cater to foreign visitors.
In 2007 and 2008, I wrote several blog posts and then an op-ed in the Examiner about this effort by the corporate tourism executives to force U.S. taxpayer and foreign visitors to this country to pay for overseas marketing and promotion of an already profitable industry.
The Examiner's Tim Carney further exposed the K Street lobbying connection behind this effort. Then, in February 2008, Jeff Birnbaum, who was then covering the lobbying industry for The Washington Post, blew the lid off this scam in an almost 7,000 word in-depth article.
"A lobbying machine, once it gets started, cannot stop," Birnbaum said. And sure enough, despite all the negative coverage it received before and opposition from the Bush administration, this one hasn't stopped moving forward. Gary Locke, President Obama's Commerce Secretary, supports the bill and just this Monday, the U.S. Senate approved it.
The public relations executive behind the tourism industry campaign is Geoff Freeman, senior vice president for public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association. Freeman's self-described specialty is "developing innovative outreach techniques to increase support among unlikely allies."
He seeks to "flip the table and change the environment," which is exactly what he's done for the tourism industry. In 2007-2008, his campaign for the fee was based on a false claim of diminished travel to the U.S. following 9/11. That claim, by the way, was flatly contradicted by government and industry statistics.
Now, with public concern high for deepening federal deficits, Freeman's argument is that the travel fee is a deficit reduction measure because it will produce new revenue for the government, even though it will mean higher travel costs for consumers and lead to more government.
Guess what Freeman was doing before he went to work for the tourism industry. He was director of government relations and strategic outreach for Freddie Mac where, according to Freeman, he "developed and implemented an innovative program to highlight the corporation's activities in local markets."
In that position, he "teamed with local stakeholders and elected officials to celebrate newfound homeownership opportunities presented to millions of Americans across the country." In other words, he helped sell the idea that people who were poor credit risks should get government-guaranteed mortgages. We know how that story ended.
Visitation to the U.S. is down, due to the global economic meltdown, but so is visitation to Europe and elsewhere. This travel industry visitor from K Street, however, seeks to travel high.