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The National Business Travel Association's Political Action Committee this year contributed more than $44,000 to congressional delegates. During the 111th Congress, which ends Jan. 3, 2011, many issues supported by the PAC have not been brought to a vote, but NBTA director of public policy Shane Downey said the association is confident the FAA Reauthorization Act and the End Discriminatory State Taxes for Automobile Renters Act of 2009 can be pushed forward by the 112th Congress, which will run to Jan. 3, 2013.
"The president and the leadership had different priorities on what they wanted to accomplish this year," Downey said. "A lot of issues that we cared about weren't in the news or acted upon--FAA being a key one. We are a bipartisan association and we work with both sides of the aisle on these issues."
He added that the lame-duck session in December could be the time for Congress to discuss the FAA bill. "It's a good candidate because it does have bipartisan support, which is pretty rare."
Thus far in the 2010 election cycle, the NBTA PAC received more than $78,000 from individual contributors and from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car PAC ($3,000), according to the Center for Responsive Politics. As a "small group," the PAC must "target contributions to [congressional] members that are on committees that we deal with and party leadership that has shown an interest in the travel industry," Downey said.
Contribution recipients include incumbent Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., up for reelection tomorrow ($7,000); Homeland Security Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ($4,000) and ranking minority member Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. ($5,000).
"Nevada is a big travel and tourism destination," Downey said. "[Reid] has been supportive of these issues but the agenda has just been other things. Sen. Reid was a vocal opponent when the president was making comments about not going to Las Vegas and stopping travel." Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., also received contributions ($2,000).
Democrats this year received 51 percent of total PAC contributions and Republicans got 49 percent. Across both parties, the NBTA PAC provided most of its contributions to those who supported the FAA reauthorization bill and legislation supporting a U.S. registered traveler program. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., for example, voted for both of those, as well as the Clean Energy and Security Act, and received $5,000.
Other recipients of PAC contributions included Sens. James DeMint, R-S.C., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. ($2,000 apiece). Downey helps determine how NBTA PAC contributions should be spread around before the NBTA board of directors approves such decisions.
In all, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NBTA PAC during the 2010 election cycle contributed $14,000 to House Democrats and $16,500 to House Republicans (compared with $28,500 and $19,500, respectively, during the 2008 election cycle), and $8,800 to Senate Democrats and $5,000 to Senate Republicans (compared with $9,500 and $16,000, respectively, in 2008).
The NBTA PAC currently has about $18,000 remaining, after deducting contributions and other expenses.
The FAA Reauthorization Act, of critical importance to the business travel community, would call for implementing the NextGen air traffic control system to reduce delays and congestion. The two houses of Congress have been unable to reconcile different versions of the FAA bill, prompting NBTA last year to give an "F" rating on this issue in its 2009 government scorecard.
NBTA also continues to focus on ending discriminatory taxes on car renters. "We will continue to push further action," Downey said. "It's one of those issues that is bipartisan, but it's a tough issue." Proposed legislation would prohibit all new discriminatory taxes.
Meanwhile, Downey noted that the PAC supports "expansion of high-speed rail" because "it will be a useful tool to the business travelers." However, the logistics of the program appear "very disjointed," Downey noted. "We support the concept, we support the issue and we like it when the money is being appropriated, but as we evolve our thinking on it, there has to be more of a plan."
NBTA had supported a domestic registered traveler program, but that "took a big hit when Clear shut down," Downey said. "It doesn't seem like there has been any appetite for reinstating a security component to the program." Instead, NBTA supports the Department of Homeland Security's Global Entry Program.
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