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Blogs / Leadership

Senators Concerned About London Sushi Parties

June 19, 2012
If you're going to throw a high-end party in London while also receiving money from the federal government, you're gonna read a stern letter about it.

Six Republican senators wrote a letter last week, asking the Department of Commerce to turn over documents showing how Brand USA is using its money, including how much top-ranking employees earn and details surrounding a London launch party in 2011.

Brand USA is a private-public partnership that gets money from the Department of Commerce to boost travel to the United States. And that money, more specifically, comes from a tax paid by foreign travelers.

The senators describe the party, held at the British National Maritime Museum, as a "high-end affair" that provided more than 500 VIP guests sushi, champagne and petit fours -- fancy indeed. Don't believe them? Check out the video of the party below and judge for yourself.

The senators also questioned why the entire corporate board traveled to London in 2011 for the World Travel Market trade show.

U.S. Travel Association COO Geoff Freeman described Brand USA as a start-up. And Freeman said he welcomes the oversight, while adding that the senators who sent the letter opposed the legislation that created the company. "They're inclined to ask a lot of questions," Freeman said.

As for the party and trade show? Freeman said "that's an annual event where, frankly, America has been absent for decades, whereas the rest of the travel world has been going. We should be proud America was represented in a bold fashion."

The senators who signed the letter are: Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; and Mike Lee, R-Utah. Check out the full text after the jump.


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