The House overwhelmingly passed a bill taxing foreign travelers to the U.S. in order to fund government-backed advertising campaign for the U.S. tourism industry.
Why do we have such a program? The tourism industry lobbied for it, of course. Here's a hotel industry group applauding the House vote.
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.
Delahunt this year sponsored HR 2935, the Travel Promotion Act, which creates a Corporation for Travel Promotion, funded through voluntary contributions from tourism businesses, plus a $10 tax on every foreigner entering the United States.