Brand Exodus

Second Brand USA exec leaves company on heels of Senate report

Chris Perkins / Twitter
October 15, 2012

Another top executive has departed from Brand USA, a public-private corporation founded to promote U.S. tourism, in the wake of a congressional report detailing what its authors call waste and cronyism.

Travel Market Report writes that Brand USA chief marketing officer Chris Perkins has left the company. Perkins is the second executive to leave the firm. Brand USA CEO Jim Evans left in June, a week after several U.S. Senators first began probing the company.

The report, released last week by Sens. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), slammed Brand USA and the Department of Commerce for providing "only a small cross section" of the requested documents.

However, the report said, the documents the senators did obtain "paint a picture of mismanagement, waste and cronyism."

A mix of private contributions and matching federal grants funds Brand USA. The report claims Brand USA relied on questionable "in-kind" non-cash contributions to qualify for more taxpayer dollars.

As previously reported by the Washington Free Beacon, Brand USA’s board, which is appointed by President Barack Obama’s administration, is stacked with Obama campaign donors. The company first came under fire for hosting a lavish London gala.

Travel Market Report cites an unnamed travel industry source who calls the senators’ findings "fair."

"But that doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bath water," the source told the publication. "You clean things up; that’s what the board has done by getting rid of Jim Evans and Chris Perkins, the people that put Brand USA in this situation."

Brand USA, which did not return requests for comment from the Free Beacon, issued the following statement to Travel Market Report:

In a statement, Brand USA said it enjoys strong industry support, is working with more than 260 partners and has received about $59 million in cash and in-kind contributions from private businesses and organizations.

"In-kind donations are vetted scrupulously, first by Brand USA then by an independent accounting firm before receiving a final review by the government," the statement said.

"Brand USA has been committed to holding administrative and overhead expenses to under 15% – ensuring that at least 85% of spending goes directly toward attracting international visitors."

It said the private sector, including its board members, have donated "countless hours, dollars and other resources because of their commitment to creating jobs and economic growth for America. We have and will continue to work with the Senator and his staff to address any further concerns they have."

Brand USA was created by an act of Congress in 2010 to promote U.S. tourism abroad.