GSA Scandal: Industry Unites to Protect Meetings and Conventions

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) have launched a second letter-writing campaign aimed at protecting the meetings and events industry from the unintended consequences of new GSA scandal-inspired regulations.

In response to the scandal over wasteful spending in the General Services Administration (GSA), the House and Senate passed two amendments to the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 2146) and the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789) that were aimed at curbing wasteful spending in government-sponsored events. The ASAE grew concerned that because the language of the amendments could apply to both government-sponsored meetings and meetings sponsored by the private sector, the amendments would have a “chilling effect” on government employees’ participation in non-governmental meetings.

In response the ASAE orchestrated a campaign that resulted in a letter with 2,100 signatures being sent to Congress requesting that the amendments be changed to apply solely to government-sponsored events. After that the Obama Administration issued a directive to federal agencies to cut travel budgets in 2013 by 30 percent and cap spending on government-sponsored conferences at $500,000. These restrictions applied only to government travel and conference spending and did not, as was feared by the ASAE, affect association and other private sector meetings.

Nevertheless, the ASAE and PCMA report that many legislators in Congress wish to do more to curb government spending on meetings and events.

“For this reason,” the ASAE and PCMA said in a release, “we remain concerned that Congress will insert language into another legislative vehicle that includes broader restrictions on non-governmental meetings and conferences where government employees can learn about challenges facing the private sector and maintain a dialogue with the businesses and industries regulated by the government.”

As a result, the ASAE and PCMA have launched a second letter-writing campaign to members of Congress, asking them to support the following specific changes to the more restrictive amendments that passed the House and Senate:

“1. Change the definition of a conference to apply only to government-sponsored meetings as intended, and not include meetings and conferences held by associations and other private sector organizations.

“2. Strike the provision in the amendment that restricts agencies from attending more than one conference held by a private organization per fiscal year.”

Agents can access a web template to take part in the letter-writing campaign here, and learn more about the ASAE’s suggested modifications to the House and Senate amendments here.