Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) today called upon Florida International University (FIU) to immediately release both the initial and final grant applications to help to erase any question of the integrity of FIU research funded by the hotel lobby.
The request includes all communications and documents relating to a grant proposal that resulted in a $68,210 check from the hotel industry’s lobbying arm, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).
A similar request has been made by email to AHLA Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Relations Rosanna Maietta.
“The hotel lobby has a secretive, pay-to-play academic research program,” said C&BP Executive Director Scott Peterson. “The question is: Will FIU be a willing party to it?”
A Tighter “Scope of Work”
According to records previously provided by FIU, we know that there was an initial grant application, sent back by AHLA asking for a tighter “scope of work.” This suggests a robust back-and-forth between the University and the hotel lobby. The FIU professor commissioned to do the research has said that it will be “a challenge” to be independent in the face of this funding.
FIU has refused so far to release records of the grant, claiming the application is “exempt and confidential.”
“We think that this response shouldn’t be allowed to stand, which is why we are escalating our efforts to get to the bottom of how this grant came about and how much AHLA leveled with FIU officials,” said Peterson.
Aims and Objectives Sought
In a records request emailed to FIU this morning, C&BP declared that we “are not seeking to review parts of the proposal that contain proprietary or confidential information. Nor do we seek to review the proposal’s methodology. Rather, we request to review sections of the proposal that pertain to aims and objectives, dissemination of results, budget and literature review, and correspondence related to any kind of coordination around the study, including discussions of conclusions, framing, results, edits and feedback.”
AHLA board books obtained by The New York Times showed that the hotel lobby has had extensive plans to develop or grow financial relationships with key universities. In this campaign, universities such as FIU, Penn State and potentially University of North Carolina, take often substantial amounts of money from the hotel lobby in exchange for producing research that reinforces industry lobbying talking points.
Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, a national investigative blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and donors.