SEPTEMBER 11, 2006
Motivated by recent Washington lobbying scandals, a powerful trade association has discontinued a controversial program that schmoozed lawmakers on luxury yachts though one New York Congressman remains under fire for introducing legislation that benefits the group, which has donated thousands to his campaigns.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which represents the boating industry, has for years sponsored the Congressional Cruise Series which hosts lawmakers and their staff on luxury yachts, complete with staterooms and deluxe entertainment centers. The group has also hosted fundraisers for members of Congress aboard the yachts and donated thousands to various campaigns.
More than 600 lawmakers and staffers were wined and dined last year alone and one, U.S. Representative John Sweeney, a Republican from New York, is even featured at the helm of a 38-foot Meridian in a recent industry newsletter.
It turns out that Sweeney has received more money from the NMMA than any other House candidate and he even sponsored NMMA-backed legislation that makes personal flotation devices tax deductible for boat manufacturers.
This election cycle Sweeney received a total of $7,500 in NMMA contributions, including $3,500 a week after he held a press conference in Lake George to publicize his new tax break law. Additionally, Sweeney has held successful fundraisers – that netted more than $12,000–the last two years on industry yachts.
Though the Congressional Cruises have been discontinued for now, the NMMA maintains that they are an excellent way to expose decision-makers to boating and to help elect lawmakers who “share our values and have a pro-boating history.”
Lavish boat rides aside, it doesn’t hurt that the NMMA’s Political Action Committee dished out nearly $200,000 to House and Senate candidates during the last election cycle.
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