DeMint, Coburn report shows inappropriate spending in government travel program

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

{mosads}“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.


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