Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Mayor Oscar Goodman is pipin' mad at President Obama and the local media is all over it. Here's KLAS's Eddie Lawrence, for example, and Ben Spillman of the Review-Journal.
Except that the premise of both those stories and Goodman's outrage are false.
Obama was responding to a question about corporate responsibility in an appearance in Indiana. Among the recent reports to catch notice was Wells Fargo's plan, later canceled after a public shaming, to go on a lavish junket to the Wynn after taking a huge government bailout. This was a so-called "appreciation" event, an effort to reward high-achieving employees. That seemed extravagant to some when the banks are taking huge publicly funded bailouts, so it fit the narrative of automaker CEOs flying private jets to their Congressional begging session and the like.
Here's what Obama said: "You can't get corporate jets, you can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer's dime."
Yet all of these stories make it sound like Obama offered a full-throated assault on the entire Vegas convention industry. He said nothing about holding meetings or conventions in Las Vegas. He spoke about this in the context of extravagances, of leisure activities. The Wells Fargo event wasn't a meeting or a conference. They weren't planning to do any business. They were going to vacate and indulge, presumably for a job well done even though it's hard for many to see who could deserve it considering these companies' dire straits.
I'm not opining about who's right or wrong here. Dave Schwartz of UNLV makes an interesting case in favor of such trips and John L. Smith in the Review-Journal yesterday was satirically brutal about the same.
But the mayor is complaining about something that never happened, and the local press is filling out the details by allowing the mayor to take the president out of context. True, Goldman Sachs, also a bailout baby, moved a business meeting at the Mandalay Bay to a Marriott in San Francisco out of fear of looking bad. But that's not something the president himself said and so far, it's one example and still within the banking sphere.
Funny thing is, in the process the mayor may actually be endangering the convention business himself. By ginning this up, by turning it into something Drudge-worthy, he's introducing to many meeting planners and companies a thought that hadn't crossed or become firm in their minds: "Will it look bad if we hold this thing in Vegas this year?"
Before the mayor's outrage, I suspect most folks knew that Obama was talking about junkets and excess. Now, I wonder if the stigma has been amplified 100 times over.