Obama administration officials are using the government shutdown as an excuse to shut down privately-run tourist attractions, even though doing so costs the government far more money than leaving them open.
They are doing so even though these privately-run sites remained open during all past government shutdowns and even though much of the government itself remains open (about 57 percent of federal workers are still at work nationally).
The government sent National Park Service Police to drive people out of privately-run tourist attractions on public land, like the Claude Moore Colonial Farm.
As its Managing Director, Anna Eberly, lamented, “for the first time in 40 years, the National Park Service has finally succeeded in closing the farm down to the public."
Eberly further explained that "in previous budget dramas, the farm has always been exempted, since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the farm.
"But this year, NPS went out of its way to shut down the farm," she said, while disrupting an event by “the McLean Chamber of Commerce” which was “having a large annual event at the Pavilion.”
Eberly added that NPS “sent the park police over to remove the Pavilion’s staff and Chamber volunteers from the property, while they were trying to set up for their event.”
The government used “staff they don’t have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money.”
Warren Meyer of Phoenix said the “marching orders” to shut down his business came “straight from the White House.” He heads Recreation Resource Management, Inc., which employs more than 400 camp workers on national park campgrounds and other sites.
Previous government shutdowns closed none of the parks RRM operates, but this time, the firm was ordered to close — even though its campgrounds are self-sufficient and receive no federal funds. Indeed, they pay rent to the government out of their revenue.
Meyer told PJ Media that not only is his business losing money due to the closures, but the government is making it buy the very barricades being used to shut it down.
“We are like prisoners of war who have to pay for our prison,” he said.
The government also shut down restaurants and hotels on government-owned land, causing thousands of dollars in losses, and erected costly barricades to shut down parking lots around privately-owned attractions like Mount Vernon.
These closings are part of the Obama administration’s strategy of making the government shutdown as painful as possible to provoke a political backlash against the GOP, which it blames for the shutdown. It’s political theater with real victims.
While closing these private operations, the government has selectively left open other government-run sites, while closing others.
It has closed the most popular tourist destinations, such as the World War II Memorial and the National Mall, while keeping open other, less-visited public sites.
I am a lawyer who worked for the government during a past shutdown, and these closures of private tourist attractions strike me as illegal.
Other lawyers agree. Former Justice Department lawyer Hans Von Spakovsky, now employed by the Heritage Foundation, told me that these private enterprises “should immediately file a lawsuit and seek a temporary injunction against the government” to stop the illegal closings.
The federal government’s financial problems give it no excuse to harass private tenants whose operations cost it nothing, and fill, rather than deplete, the government’s coffers by generating valuable tax revenue.
If there were any legal basis for closing them, it would have been invoked by President Clinton during the last shutdown, since Clinton, too, sought to make government shutdowns as painful as possible to win the PR war with his GOP rivals.
Hans Bader is a senior attorney with the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.