Travel policies leave Nevada, Florida out

CARSON CITY — Politicians from Nevada and Florida expressed outrage Thursday at a report that some federal agencies have put the two tourist hot spots on a “blacklist” when deciding where to hold conferences or meetings.

A Wall Street Journal article published Wednesday cited e-mails from the FBI and Department of Agriculture encouraging conference locations that aren’t resort destinations and don’t appear to be “lavish.”

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, said Thursday the Obama administration “seemed to be completely unaware of the damage they are causing” by such policies. U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said President Barack Obama was reversing policies begun during the Bush administration.

Gibbons said the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported hundreds of conventions and business meetings scheduled for the gambling mecca have canceled in recent months, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

The exact nature of the policies in the various federal agencies was not clear.

Reid inquired about the issue last month, claiming agencies including the FBI, General Services Agency and Bureau of Indian Affairs had canceled Las Vegas meetings.

He received a letter from Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, that says value, not location, should be the basis for booking a trip.

Reid on Thursday pointed to federal memos dating to 2006 that required special approval for meetings in gambling or resort locations, saying, “The restrictions initiated by the Bush administration are damaging to places like Las Vegas and Reno and I applaud President Obama’s decision to reverse this policy.”

The Journal said Agriculture Department guidelines on conferences encouraged staffers to hold meetings in cities that are lower-cost, “non-resort” travel hubs. Those on the lower-cost list included Chicago, Denver, Portland, Ore., St. Louis, Washington, Milwaukee, Phoenix and Fort Collins, Colo.

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