DeMint, Coburn report shows inappropriate spending in government travel program

The new report examined documents that showed questionable accounting, lavish spending and lobbying violations.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Only Washington could think that taxing tourists will increase tourism or that we need a new bureaucracy to duplicate our vibrant tourism industry’s advertising budgets,” DeMint said.

Congress passed the Travel Promotion Act in 2010, creating Brand USA, which is eligible to receive up to $100 million a year through a $10 tax on all foreign travelers to America.

The report found that top officials threw parties in London and enjoyed luxury baseball suites courtesy of taxpayer-funded Amtrak and violated other lobbying rules.

“It is immoral to ask the federal government to shell out $100 million every year to pay for high ranking executives to enjoy parties in London and luxury suites at major league baseball games in the name of ‘travel promotion,’ " Coburn said Thursday. "With millions out of work and our national debt surpassing $16 trillion, this is the kind of indulgence we need to say no to.”

Brand USA can only get that $100 million through a federal matching program that allows it to receive $2 in public money for every $1 of cash and non-cash contributions it raises this year. The lawmakers said the report showed Brand USA used questionable accounting methods to report higher in-kind contributions.

The news release said that since the tourism industry has shown a lack of interest in funding Brand USA, the agency’s executives have claimed higher matching funds, including claims of $94.87 taxi fares for 2-mile rides, flights to London costing $6,799.30 and $365 hotel rooms. It also includes attempts by corporate executives to count a tip of $1.60 to a hotel doorman and a $14 snack in London as an in-kind contribution to U.S. travel promotion.