New documents reveal lavish spending at government-subsidized travel-promotion agency

Brand USA’s funding comes in part from a $14 fee levied on visitors to the U.S. from countries that do not require a visa for entry.

“The entire team at Brand USA is focused on and dedicated to pursuing and fulfilling [its] mandate,” she said. “In the process, we will be able to strengthen our economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs across a variety industries. Every 33 new international travelers that visit the United States creates one new job for America. That’s something we are proud to be a part of.”

But a former Brand USA employee, who requested anonymity, told TheDC the agency was not particularly concerned about keeping an eye on its expenditures. (RELATED OPINION: Why is there so much government waste?)

“The government side of spending was just not at the fore — like [we were not thinking], ‘Oh my God, what would someone say if we had spent this much money on something?’ That was not the first question,” the ex-employee said, noting that the agency was initially focused mainly on getting off the ground, rather than saving money.

The former employee added that Brand USA’s spending slowed somewhat when the government began asking questions, but still remained excessive.

One Senate Republican staffer told TheDC that Brand USA’s expenditures are “very troubling,” adding that the agency “will likely be a continuing concern to members of the Republican Conference.”

“The only folks who are going to be able to put a stop to the wasteful spending at Brand USA is the leadership of the Department of Commerce,” the staffer said. “Unless someone over there is willing to grab Brand USA leadership by the lapels and tell them to knock it off or we’re not sending you any more checks, this type of stuff isn’t going to stop.”

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