TACO Exec Miffed over Mix-up on Rick Perry Invite
Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry won't be invited to speak at the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds' (ARVC) conference in Savannah, Ga., later this year afterall, and the decision has at least one Texan livid.
Brian Schaeffer, executive director of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), told Woodall's Campground Management that he had broached the idea earlier this summer of inviting Perry to the ARVC Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo, which starts Nov. 30.
Schaeffer said he thought ARVC was on board with inviting Perry to speak.
However, ARVC Chairman David L. Berg said the board decided early on not to invite Perry or any political figure to speak at the conference.
"We decided not to play politics with the conference," he said.
Further, Berg said he was never aware of any agreement to invite Perry.
This apparent misunderstanding is the latest in a series of sore points to develop between 400-member TACO and the national association.
After months of rumors and speculation, Perry formally announced on Saturday (Aug. 13) that he was running for president. As a write-in candidate, Perry finished sixth among nine candidates voted for in the Iowa Republican Straw Poll, which was held on Saturday. Some pundits have put Perry among the top three GOP contenders. One poll released today even revealed he was the leader among the GOP candidates.
The weekend developments prompted Schaeffer to follow up on his earlier talks with ARVC.
In an e-mail to ARVC CEO Paul Bambei early on Monday (Aug. 15), Schaeffer wrote in part, "If you are able to put together a formal letter of invitation with a cc to TACO, we'll push all the buttons possible to get Rick to Savannah."
Schaeffer suggested that Bambei note in its invitation to Perry that he was aware that Perry "has not only created jobs in Texas but he has passed legislation that is friendly to small business (including RV parks and campgrounds) and that's exactly what is needed across America."
Schaeffer added, "You might mention that campground owners all over the country have the same spirit that TACO members exhibited when TACO became the first association to support TEXAS ONE – the governor's private job creation fund. It's all about jobs and minimal government interference in your business – that's what our industry is all about!
"Then let's keep our fingers crossed because this would be very cool to have a future president chat with ARVC members."
Bambei responded in mid-afternoon in a brief e-mail, stating, "Brian…really appreciate your good intentions, but sorry to report ARVC ExCom has decided having a political speaker like Rick is too risky. Sorry, but have to respect their wishes on this."
When subsequently reached by WCM, Bambei stated in an e-mail, "We have someone just as big in mind who’s not running for office and is an RV enthusiast."
Later on Monday, Schaeffer wrote in another e-mail to WCM, "Too risky to have the future president of the US talk to members. WOW!"
But Schaeffer was not through.
In a follow-up e-mail to WCM, he wrote, "Consider this – what would ARVC members find more interesting (and a reason to come to the ARVC convention) having Rick Perry, Barack Obama or any other national figure(s) address your group or giving away free state park memberships. How about proposing to put all government parks on your private park website – that was voted down at the last convention. Risky?
"Or, what is more risky, having a national political figure address your group or pissing off your members to the point where affiliated state boards are passing resolution NOT to honor free state park memberships.
"What is risky about having Perry or Obama address the group? Are you assuming your members are morons and can't handle listening to leaders or future leaders talking about the issues of the day. … the future is what is on people's minds – not how private parks can build the business of government parks through free memberships.
Schaeffer wonders why, after he thought the invitation to Perry was cleared with the ARVC executive committee, the decision was changed.
"Is it a Texas thing? Who knows? Many political leaders have spoken to ARVC members and received awards from ARVC over the years – why kibosh Perry?" Schaeffer asked.
"We respect all political beliefs," Berg stressed in a conversation with WCM late today. "So not to offend anyone, we are going to remain neutral.”
Berg conceded there might have been "a little misunderstanding on both sides."
TACO endorsed Perry for re-election last fall. In a news release issued at that time, Schaeffer stated in part, “Rick Perry has exhibited great leadership during his tenure as governor and helped the campground industry thrive in the process. It is a pleasure endorsing Gov. Perry, who has done an excellent job attracting more people to Texas than ever while keeping taxes and fees low.”