C&BP Executive Director’s Questions Rebuffed at AH&LA Board Meeting.
We traveled to New York City last week to pose some important questions directly to Katherine Lugar, the leader of the hotel lobby, about efforts to penalize the sustainable, home sharing economy.
During a break at the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s (AH&LA) board meeting at the Waldorf Astoria, Ms. Lugar ran from my questions about model legislation that would tax home sharers nationwide to the tune of $1.25 billion. The campaign was revealed recently by Business Insider in an article titled, “If the hotel industry has its way, here’s how hard it would be to rent out your house.”
Model legislation that is written by lobbyists and pushed to enabling state legislators in the U.S. for passage into law is a technique made famous by the American Legislative Affairs Council (ALEC). Masking itself as a defender of free enterprise, ALEC’s model legislation method is almost uniformly anti-consumer, pro-big business and designed to quash entrepreneurial upstarts that are threats to profit. Now AH&LA appears to be adopting this same tactic.
A Few Questions for Katherine Lugar
I began by introducing myself.
C&BP: “Hello, Kathy Lugar? Scott Peterson of Checks and Balances Project. How are you today?”
My offer of a handshake was ignored.
C&BP: “The model legislation you’re apparently discussing today at your board meeting would create over a billion dollars in new taxes on ordinary people who want to share their home. How do you justify that?”
Lugar: “Oh, is that what this is about?”
She turned toward the stairs leading to the Empire Room, where the AH&LA board was meeting in closed session, and began walking very quickly.
C&BP: “How are ordinary people who rent their home or a spare room a threat to the hotel industry?”
Ms. Lugar ignored me. I nearly slipped trying to follow her quickly up the marble stairs.
C&BP: “Just a couple of questions. We’re trying to understand.”
Lugar: “Call security!” she yelled to her aides at a nearby table before disappearing behind the door of the Empire Room.
I turned and said I was a paid guest at the hotel.
Sustainable Hospitality or Big Hotels?
Since C&BP was founded in 2009, we’ve asked questions of lobbyists, their friends in government and elsewhere, who block the growth of a sustainable economy. Recently, we turned our attention to the hotel lobby, which appears to be directed by yet another mature industry that seeks to protect its profits and subsidies from perceived threats by entrepreneurial forces. In this case, it is sharable hospitality, a sustainable form of travel.
If granted more time, I wanted to ask Ms. Lugar some additional questions:
- How does she reconcile the proposed $1.25 billion tax on middle-income home sharers with at least $3.6 billion in corporate welfare received by the hotel industry since 2008?
- Is defeating minimum wage increases still the AH&LA’s top advocacy priority, as she said at the 2014 Dallas Hotel Conference, or is it now home sharing?
- What is AH&LA’s association with Professor John W. O’Neill of Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management?
- Did AH&LA fund Professor O’Neill’s report, “Extreme Wage Initiatives & The Hotel Industry: Impact on Local Communities And The Nation”? The report bemoans “extreme minimum wage rates” and refers to increases as an “inept device for combatting poverty.”
We had other questions.
But before we could ask them, the massive door slammed shut. Katherine Lugar had rejoined the AH&LA board members, including the wealthy executives of Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, LaSalle Properties and others inside the Waldorf’s Empire Room.
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Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog 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.