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FIU out of anti-Airbnb, hotel association research project

Florida International University has been dropped from a controversial research contract proposed by the American Hotel & Lodging Association that had been criticized as potentially unethical by the national watchdog group Checks & Balances Project.

A spokeswoman for the university advised FloridaPolitics.com that it has been notified that it is not receiving the AH&LA $68,209 grant for sponsored research into the emerging home-sharing industry.

The university did not indicate why it was not receiving the grant, and did not immediately respond to a FloridaPolitics.com inquiry about that.

On Thursday the Checks & Balances Project held a national telephone press conference criticizing FIU and two other universities for research projects sponsored by the hotel association, which Checks & Balances said appeared to be “pay to play” contracts, to sponsor research to support the AH&LA’s lobbying efforts to oppose Airbnb and other vacation rental home-sharing companies.

FIU had bid for an AH&LA grant to sponsor research “to determine if there are any safety/security issues that could/should be addressed in order to be sure that consumers have a consistently safe product” with home-sharing lodging.

Checks & Balances Project is doing its own study, at least partly funded by Airbnb, on the traditional hotel industry’s lobbying efforts.

Scott Peterson, executive director of the Checks & Balances Project, welcomed the development that FIU will not be conducting the AH&LA-sponsored research.

“No matter who decided to end this arrangement, Florida taxpayers are the winners, along with FIU’s long-term credibility,” Peterson said in a written statement to FloridaPolitics.com. “We have to figure that FIU felt the hotel lobby hadn’t been above board about its secretive, pay-to-play academics plan. Other universities would do well to hand back the hotel lobby’s money. It always has ropes attached.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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