CASINO CRONY KICKBACK: Reid, Heller Slip Las Vegas Tourism Handout into Immigration Bill
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) have inserted a provision that amounts to little more than a handout to Las Vegas casinos into the repackaged immigration reform bill, Breitbart News has learned. This provision, a brazen example of crony capitalism, was inserted into the immigration law enforcement section of the bill despite the fact that it has nothing whatsoever to do with "immigration" or "law enforcement."
On page 66 of the repackaged bill, the following provision appears:
“CORPORATION FOR TRAVEL PROMOTION.—Sec- 9(d)(2)(B) of the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (22 U.S.C. 2131(d)(2)(B)) is amended by striking ‘‘For each of fiscal years 2012 through 2015,’’ and inserting ‘‘For each fiscal year after 2012.”
The Travel Promotion Act (TPA) of 2009 allows the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury to spend up to $100 million on promoting travel to specific areas of the country. If the provision Reid and Heller inserted into the proposed immigration reform legislation becomes law, the benefits of the TPA would be extended indefinitely.
As the Heritage Foundation’s Jena McNeill wrote in June 2009, the Travel Promotion Act creates “a government-run public relations campaign funded by a tax on international visitors.” After the law was passed, the PR campaign touting Las Vegas casinos and other tourist destinations in the U.S. using that tax was rolled into a government-run corporation called “Brand USA.” In October 2012, Jim DeMint and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a report that “reveals a history of waste, abuse, patronage, and lax oversight” with the Brand USA program and the Department of Commerce that oversees it.
When the Travel Promotion Act was passed in 2009, the Las Vegas Casino industry and the Las Vegas Strip officially thanked Reid for passing it. Among others, Bally’s Casino ran an advertisement on their electronic billboard on the Strip thanking Reid for its passage, a billboard Reid promoted on his website.
“The recently signed into law Travel Promotion Act is going to greatly benefit Nevada because we have so many wonderful tourist attractions,” a 2009 post from Reid’s website reads. “Senator Reid fought so hard to pass this bill because he knew that it would mean thousands of jobs for Nevada as foreign tourists flock to Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe. Yesterday a number of hotels on the Las Vegas Strip showed Senator Reid their appreciation for his efforts on behalf of Nevada by thanking him in their marquees.”
Heritage’s Jessica Zuckerman wrote in a 2012 post based off DeMint’s and Coburn’s report ripping the program that Congress “should leave the promotion of tourism to the private sector.”
“Instead, Congress and the Administration should focus on making it easier, safer, and more efficient for travelers to come to the U.S by improving U.S. visa services and expanding the Visa Waiver Program, the very program that is helping to fund Brand USA’s misguided efforts,” Zuckerman wrote.
Current law would fund the government-run program through 2015. But, now Reid and Heller have inserted an indefinite expansion of it into a bill that has nothing to do with tourism, and into a section of the bill that was supposed to be aimed at adding additional Border Patrol and U.S. Customs Border Protection officers to the current staffs of those agencies.
The provision was inserted under “Sec. 1102,” which is titled: “Additional U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers.” That section falls under “Title I: Border Security and Other Provisions,” “Subtitle A--Border Security” in the repackaged bill.
Heller is a co-sponsor of the revised bill; he was not a sponsor of the bill in its original form.
Reid has consistently pushed projects that benefit big casinos over the course of his career.