The U.S. Travel Association has hired the Washington D.C. lobbying firm Klein/Johnson Group for Capitol Hill representation on issues related to government appropriations and tourism. US Travel has retained Klein/Johnson on issues related to “encouraging safe travel to and within the United States for both business and tourism,” according to lobbying registration documents filed in March.
US Travel has also hired Klein/Johnson for help with appropriations bills as they relate to travel and Brand USA, the large-scale, public-private campaign to promote travel and tourism to the United States.
Above: Klein/Johnson Group principals Matt Johnson (left) and Izzy Klein
It’s possible that US Travel is ramping up its efforts so as not to be caught flat-footed, as it seemed to be last December. Unbeknownst to just about everyone—Members of Congress included—when the U.S. Senate passed the wide-ranging tax bill early on the morning of Dec. 2, it opened the door to the automatic implementation of previous legislation that, in effect, would require the de-funding of Brand USA (officially, the Corporation for Travel Promotion) and deep cuts in the programs of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
As it turned out, in February 2010, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law The Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (Title I of Public Law 111-139)—also called Paygo—which reinstated a law enacted in 1990 under President George H.W. Bush and was effective until 2002. The act is designed to ensure that most new spending is offset by spending cuts or added revenue elsewhere (with several major policy exemptions). The tax cut bill will cost the U.S., by most estimates, some $1.5 trillion. Hence, the Paygo cuts.
As explained by the New York Times—which first brought the matter to the public’s attention—with the exception of Social Security, the U.S. Postal Service and some income-based programs such as unemployment benefits and food stamps, most mandatory spending programs are subject to Paygo. For 2018, the law would take away $14 billion in some farm aid programs, $1.7 billion for Social Security block grants, Meals on Wheels and millions here and there for scores of federal programs.
The matter was later resolved via a waiver procedure, but it seemed to be a wake-up call to the industry’s advocacy operation that a little more strength on Capitol Hill would help. The Klein/Johnson Group was launched last year by two Capitol Hill alumni—Izzy Klein and Matt Johnson. Klein was previously communications director for U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and was also formerly press secretary and legislative assistant to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Johnson worked as chief counsel to U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). Other Klein/Johnson clients include Oracle, First Data and Civitas Capital Group.