The PJ Tatler

G$A's Vegas $candal Leads Straight to Harry Reid

And ultimately, to President Obama’s demagoguery.

In 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urged the White House and individual federal agencies to lift government travel bans on “cities known as resort towns” like Las Vegas — the site of a controversial $823,000 General Services Administration conference in 2010.

Reid and then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel exchanged letters in the summer of 2009, with Reid urging the administration to publicly support government meetings and conferences in cities like Las Vegas. Emanuel wrote to Reid that he agreed that “federal policy should not dictate the location where government events are held.”

Reid also solicited commitments from two dozen federal agencies to not discriminate against any city in choosing sites for their events and posted their letters of support to his Senate website. One of those agencies to write a letter to Reid was the GSA.

Heh. G$A’s response:

“GSA’s policy regarding conference planning is consistent with the views expressed by the President’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Rahm Emanuel, in his letter,” acting GSA Administrator Paul Prouty wrote in an Aug. 19, 2009, letter. “GSA focuses on obtaining the best value for the Government when planning meeting or conferences.” Prouty’s successor, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, resigned in the wake of the Vegas scandal. (emphasis added)

Right. That must be why the G$A sent its interns to the Riviera resort in Palm Springs. Value. Palm Springs is so much cheaper than, say, San Marcos, TX. It’s also in a blue state. And–

The press release notes that “some who attended the conference also reportedly stayed in suites which the resort’s website describes as “opulent.”

Nothing’s too good for G$A interns.

But why did Sen. Reid feel the need to promote Vegas? Because President Obama had thoughtlessly trash-talked Sin City, enraging its leaders and hurting its business.

The feud began in 2009, when Obama admonished corporations using federal bailout money: “You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.” A year later, Obama warned families against gambling away college tuition: “You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”

The call for financial responsibility didn’t sit well with some Las Vegans, and Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Nevada all lashed back at the time. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Obama’s most prominent ally in Congress and Nevada’s senior senator, told Obama to “lay off Las Vegas.”

With Obama campaigning for a second term, the president’s critics are eager to call the outcry to mind.

“Perception is reality,” said Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who represents southern Nevada. “After those statements were made, we had conventions call and pull out, so it did in fact cost Las Vegas business.”

So the G$A stepped in.

In his money pitch, Reid tried blaming Bush (of course):

As part of his campaign to encourage government offices to allow travel to Las Vegas, Reid posted a YouTube video touting the Emanuel letter and the White House’s commitment to open bidding for conferences, regardless of the town.

“President Obama has taken some flak as a result of people saying why did he do this? He didn’t do it,” Reid says of the ban in the video. “It started in the Bush administration. They sent two letters of directions saying don’t go to Nevada. So what I did was send a copy of the president’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s letter to every government agency in Washington. They all know now very clearly that Las Vegas and Reno are on limits, not off limits.”

When in doubt, blame Bush, but the public comments came from Barack. G$A’s “green” fun was a reaction to Obama PR, as was the line in one of its videos about the president wanting a PR event. The whole scandal leads straight back to President Obama’s flippant public comments and his obvious desire for good PR over good governance.