Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009 | 2:43 p.m.
It appears President Obama’s off-the-cuff remarks have been taken out of context by Nevada’s economically strained hoteliers and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who has demanded an apology from the president.
During a town hall meeting Obama held to promote the economic stimulus package, he 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” — referring to corporate CEOs.
Unfortunately, Las Vegas was probably at the top of his mind for a couple of reasons. The first was Wells Fargo Bank’s plans to hold a corporate event to recognize employees, as reported by the Associated Press last week. To the credit of Wells Fargo, the company quickly reversed its plans canceling the event. This was unfortunate for Las Vegas' economic woes, though.
The second reason is the Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs’ run for cover after the fallout from Wells Fargo. Those Wall Street types are a slick bunch, because they still plan on having their conference — only in San Francisco, not Las Vegas. Here’s the kicker: The Four Seasons San Francisco is advertising on Orbitz.com rates of $395 a night, while THEHotel at Mandalay Bay is advertising $243 for the same nights and same suite.
With that said, perhaps Goodman and company may have a hair to stand on for their hypersensitivity. However, what if the president instead mentioned Chicago, Atlanta or San Francisco? Well, I am not convinced it would have the same chilling effect on any city. I don’t think there will be a chilling effect at all.
The president was correct to say, “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,” using federal bailout money.
This blowup begs the question of how many bailed-out companies are throwing conferences or parties anywhere using federal money. My guess is not many.
The bottom line is the president’s remarks will have very little effect on the convention business in Las Vegas. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “The President knows that Las Vegas is America’s premiere destination to do business. The city has more than 140,000 hotel rooms and tens of thousands of feet of meeting space.”
Perhaps, Oscar Goodman should retract his request for a presidential apology. We don’t need an apology — we need some economic stimulus.