Travel Promotion Authority case study in how Congress lobbies K Street
Tuesday the House of Representatives passed legislation renewing the Travel Promotion Authority. The Travel Promotion Authority is a public-private “partnership” formed in 2009 to encourage people from other countries to visit the United States. The Travel Promotion Authority runs the “Brand USA” program which funds advertising to promote tourism. It is funded by voluntary contributions from tourism businesses and a $10 tax assessed on foreign visitors to the United States.
I wonder if the ads mention that visitors from the USA can receive a complementary dose of radiation or a groping courtesy of the TSA?
Taxing foreign tourists seems an odd way to encourage increased tourism, and there is no reason why tourist agencies need help from the Federal Government to band together to run ads promoting tourism. But, as Tim Carney explains, this program resulted from a Congressman lobbying the industry to lobby Congress for “help”:
An industry lobbying for and obtaining federal subsidies is not that interesting of a story. What’s more interesting is the root of this lobbying effort, and what it tells us about the dynamics of K Street and Capitol Hill.
You see, politicians — despite their public complaints — love being lobbied. And K Street, rather than being the tool business uses to move Congress, is often the tool politicians use to rope in business
Here’s the story from my 2009 column:
In 2005 Rep. Bill Delahunt, a Democrat who represents Cape Cod, addressed the Washington Summit of the Travel Business Roundtable, and urged it to lobby more. Fed News reported, “The Congressman called on the industry to wage a more aggressive, bipartisan campaign.”
It’s not every day that a lawmaker issues a clarion call for more lobbying, so the industry obliged with enthusiasm. The Travel Business Roundtable registered as a lobbying organization in 2006, changed its name to the Discover America Partnership, and hired Steven Schwadron, Delahunt’s longtime chief of staff, as its K Street lobbyist. Nobody can say Delahunt doesn’t take care of his employees.