Sondland-founded hotels push back on Blumenauer's boycott call
A Portland-based company founded by Gordon Sondland, a significant figure in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, is fighting back against boycott calls and has filed an ethics complaint against Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer.
The complaint filed by Provenance Hotels alleges Blumenauer has improperly used his position to threaten "economic harm" to a company and unlawfully threatened "reprisal" versus a federal official, according to a copy of the complaint posted on Twitter Saturday morning by a Provenance employee.
The company is also sharing a letter written to Provenance employees by Bashar Wali, the company's president, calling the boycott call a "politically motivated campaign of intimidation.
"Today, we are being targeted. Who will be next? That's why we are pursuing this Congressional ethics complaint: to call attention to these tactics, defend your jobs and protect those who may be targeted in the future," Wali wrote.
Media accounts and documents indicate Sondland was a player in the Trump administration's pressure campaign on Ukraine, one that appears to have intersected with a push by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to instigate an investigation of the president's possible 2020 opponent, former Vice-President Joe Biden. House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry, while Trump has denied wrongdoing. Federal prosecutors on Thursday indicted two of Giuliani's Ukraine associates.
On Wednesday, Oct. 9, after Sondland announced he'd been directed by the Trump administration to drop his plan to testify before Congress, Blumenauer issued his call for a boycott of Provenance Hotels, which operates six hotels in Portland, three in Washington state, two in New Orleans and one in Nashville.
"Anyone who cares about America should not do any business or stay at any of Gordon Sondland's hotels. Not until he fulfills his duty as a citizen to testify and turn over all relevant documents to the House of Representatives," Blumenauer said in a statement. "Nobody is above the law. Mr. Sondland and the entire Trump administration need to be reminded of that."
Two days later, after receiving a Congressional subpoena, Sondland announced that he would testify before Congress this coming Thursday, Oct. 17.
"Notwithstanding the State Department's current direction not to testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the Committees' subpoena, and he looks forward to testifying on Thursday."
Sondland said he had acted properly to advance the country's interests.
Blumenauer has praised the decision to testify, but has not retracted his call to boycott Provenance.
In his letter to employees, Wali says that Sondland, though one of many co-owners, no longer actively manages the company. Here is a full copy of the letter:
Dear Provenance Family,
Over the past several days, our company has been included in news stories unrelated to our business. I know this has been stressful on you. Your friends and family are probably asking what is happening. Lots of folks are asking me to comment, but my priority right now is you. So, before I speak with any media or conduct any public outreach, I would like to take this opportunity to explain to you what we know and to reaffirm to each and every one of you our commitment to our team and to our community.
As you likely know, Gordon Sondland is the founder and one of the many investors in our company. He is also my friend and an honorable person. In July 2018, he assumed the role of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union. As is appropriate, he stepped down from his executive role at that time and since then, he has not been involved in running the company.
I am learning about what is happening now, just as you are, from the news. As I understand it, last week, he was called to testify in front of the U.S. House of Representatives during impeachment proceedings. The State Department initially held him back from testifying. He is now scheduled to do so on Thursday. What is happening in Washington is a process. It will play out, and we have to trust the system.
When Gordon testifies and, in fact whether he testifies, is not within the control of our company. But, that has not stopped some people from attacking us and calling for a boycott of our hotels.
We were shocked and dismayed to learn that those making these calls included our own congressman, Earl Blumenauer. We support all Americans' freedom of expression but this boycott is misguided, misinformed, and ultimately an unnecessary threat to you — the more than 1,000 exceptionally hardworking men and women who make up Provenance Hotels.
Let there be no doubt: this is a political ploy. Those calling for a boycott claim they are targeting us because Gordon 'owns' Provenance Hotels, but they know that owning a company is not like owning a car or a house. Gordon is just one of a diverse group of investors who come from a variety of backgrounds and likely represent a range of political persuasions. I say 'likely' because I do not know anything about their politics. We don't screen our investors based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political affiliation, and we are not a political entity.
We are a hospitality company. We always say we're "people first, hoteliers second" because we care deeply about you, our employees, your families, our community and our guests. That's why we have to stand up for ourselves, for you and for what is right.
Just as our elected lawmakers have no right to prop up specific businesses, they have no right to use their political power to tear them down, either. So today, we filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics in response to what we believe is an egregious abuse of power by Congressman Blumenauer. It is clear he violated multiple Congressional ethics regulations by publishing a press release and issuing several statements on social media encouraging people to boycott our hotels. Those ethics rules state plainly that "A Member [of Congress] should not directly or indirectly threaten reprisal or promise favoritism or benefit to any administrative official."
This is a politically motivated campaign of intimidation. Today, we are being targeted. Who will be next? That's why we are pursuing this Congressional ethics complaint: to call attention to these tactics, defend your jobs and protect those who may be targeted in the future.
In the meantime, please hang in there, and let's all stand with one another, too. This is a time for us to show the strength of our character and the dedication to each other we share as colleagues. As always, you are our priority, and we are working closely with law enforcement to safeguard everyone's wellbeing. And please know we are also receiving lots of outreach from partners and guests. The consistent refrain we're hearing from these folks is that they know who we are as people and as a company, they understand how important our people are to us and they appreciate how we lift up our partners. They have no doubt that we support our community.
To that I would add: I know you. I am proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself. You do good work, and you are good people. Please do not take to heart the vitriol that is being hurled our way. Keep your heads up and trust we are fighting for you.
If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know. My door, as always, is open.
President, Provenance Hotels
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