The dive trip in which U.S. Rep. Allen West violated federal law by bringing along an American flag was organized by a tourism group funded by tax money.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau organized the dive trip to promote "Learn to Dive Month." It was supposed to bring attention to local dive companies, visitors bureau spokesman Jessica Taylor said. West had previously volunteered his skills as a diver to promote local scuba operations, Taylor said, so visitors bureau officials figured he'd help
bring extra attention to the event.
Asked whether a taxpayer-funded organization should organize a dive trip with such a polarizing political figure, the visitors bureau issued a one-paragraph response from President Nicki E. Grossman. "'Politics is above the water line," the response read. "This was 60 feet below the water, planting a flag with disabled veterans showcasing the positive benefits of the sport of diving for a worthwhile charity."
West's trip has garnered national media attention since first reported June 14 on the Pulp. Independent journalism site PolitiFact disputed the claim that West broke federal law, despite a U.S. Code that forbids the flag from getting wet. Meanwhile, the Washington Post wrote that West was "in trouble" for the trip. West emailed his supporters a response to the article calling the Pulp "idiot Liberals," "delusional dummies," and "a bunch of losers."
Visitors bureau officials say they didn't shell out any money for the trip beyond a photographer the organization hired to shoot photos. The boat captain donated his services and equipment use for the trip, they say.
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In her response, Grossman boasted that the event helped people celebrate Flag Day.
"Greater Fort Lauderdale kicked off Learn to Dive Month with our local US Congressman, a military hero and master PADI diver, who joined U.S. veterans from Diveheart to salute a flag in the ocean," the release read. "Millions of people had the opportunity to see that happen in Broward County to celebrate Flag Day, via the resulting media coverage."