No Las Vegas slight intended, Obama says


The squeaky wheel gets the ... apology? At a Feb. 9 speech in Elkhart, Ind., President Obama told companies benefiting from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act not to use any of those funds for expensive, celebratory junkets. "You can't get corporate jets, you can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime," Obama said.

The comment generated a lightning-fast rebuke from a cadre of Las Vegas boosters, most notably Mayor Oscar Goodman, who demanded an apology. He got one, sort of. During a daily White House press briefing, Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president's comment was meant to discourage executives from using the money for purposes other than maintaining financial solvency.

"I don't think the president said don't go to Las Vegas," Gibbs said. "What the president expressed some concern about was companies that are getting large amounts of public funding, taxpayer funding through a financial stabilization plan. ... The president does have great concern with public money being used for" extravagances.

Since Obama's comment, several companies have canceled events. Wells Fargo called off a 12-day conference at Wynn. Goldman Sachs paid a $600,000 cancellation fee to move its conference from the Mandalay Bay to San Francisco.

Claiming that they overbooked hotel rooms for the CTIA Wireless 2009 convention April 1 to 3, officials at the Nortel Networks telecommunications firm have asked a bankruptcy court judge to void the company's contract. The Toronto-based company filed for bankruptcy in January and faces a $156,000 cancellation fee.


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