It hasn’t given away any money yet, but a federal political action committee set up by the new owners of SeaWorld has been raking in a lot of cash from park employees. The SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc. PAC reports collecting a total of $28,440 from the first of this year through June 30. That left it at the close of the period with cash on hand of $78,736.
Congressional lobbying disclosure reports show that SeaWorld spent $660,000 on attempts to influence elected officials and federal agencies during the first half of this year. Barbara Heffernan, the corporation’s vice president of national and international affairs, lobbied members of the House and Senate, as well as the departments of interior, agriculture, and commerce on “matters pertaining to zoological exhibition, transportation and research pursuant to the Animal Welfare Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act.” Heffernan also lobbied the government about “travel promotion, and facilitation, visa policy, and visa waiver program.” The company has been under intense scrutiny by critics and journalists, including author David Kirby, whose best-selling Death at SeaWorld, published earlier this year, covers the aftermath of the death of Orca trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando two and a half years ago.
Donors to SeaWorld’s new PAC included Santee’s Timothy Fessler, a SeaWorld San Diego vice president of culinary services, with $250. Chula Vista’s Marilyn Hannes, a marketing vice president here, also gave $250; Spring Valley’s Patrick Owen, vice president of maintenance and engineering, contributed $504; Tampa, Florida’s James Dean, park president of Busch Gardens, gave $2499; Toano, Virginia’s David Cromwell, vice president of Water Country, kicked in $500; and James Atchison, president and CEO, who lives in Windermere, Florida, came up with $5000.