The National Christmas Tree. Photo: Flickr/White House

A few weeks ago, The Heritage Foundation reported on a new 15-cent tax on Christmas trees imposed by the Obama administration.

The tax would have supported a new federal marketing program aimed at improving the image of Christmas trees. As if Christmas trees needed the governments’ help.

A day later, bowing to public protest, the Obama administration withdrew the tax. The media credited Heritage with this victory.

Here’s how we did it.

Our work on the issue began over a year ago with careful research by our domestic policy experts.

After Heritage vice president David Addington read the Department of Agriculture’s proposed rule in the Federal Register that would levy the tax to fund the Christmas tree promotion plan, he submitted formal comments to the agency.  Not only did Addington’s comments provide detailed policy reasons why the plan should not proceed, they also gave fair warning of the likely adverse public reaction to what was essentially a tax on Christmas trees.

Fast forward to this month. On Tuesday, Nov. 8, the Department of Agriculture published the final rule, discounting objections and going ahead with its tax-and-promote plan for Christmas trees.  Because we had done the extensive research work earlier, Addington was able to quickly publish a report on Heritage’s Foundry blog: “Obama Couldn’t Wait: His New Christmas Tree Tax.

Our communications team pushed the story to the attention of key media outlets and our Government Studies office made sure that the report came promptly to the attention of Congressional staff.

The Drudge Report headline promoting Heritage's Christmas Tree Tax story.

The Drudge Report gave its lead headline to Heritage's story about the Christmas tree tax.

The Drudge Report picked up our story and provided a link to Addington’s blog post. Hundreds of thousands of people read the post, including a reporter on the White House beat and several major news outlets including Fox News and ABC News.

Taking advantage of this growing story, Heritage’s communications staff spent Wednesday booking experts from our domestic policy team for television and radio interviews about the Christmas tree tax on national news channels and local outlets from San Francisco to Boston and Chicago to Richmond.

By then, the story had gone viral. All told,

  • 834,890 people read Addington’s blog post in the 24 hours after it was posted;
  • 188,000 people shared the story on Facebook;
  • 3,587 people tweeted our story; and
  • 2,895 posted their comments about the tax below Addington’s report.

By Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) had issued statements against the plan, and another lawmaker contacted Heritage for information on how to overturn the tax.

Late Wednesday, the White House press office said that the Obama administration would “re-visit” the plan at a later date.

And a week later, on November 17, a notice in the Federal Register revealed that the Christmas Tree tax would be stayed indefinitely.

We share this story not to just talk about the achievement, although we are pleased with the outcome. More importantly, this story emphasizes how the Heritage model works. Success comes from our long term research efforts, our readiness to respond quickly to opportunity and the collaboration of various Heritage experts to make our message heard.

Of course, this work is possible only because of the support of our 710,000 members from across the nation.

Comments (22)

Mark Hancock - November 26, 2011

Great job! Now what about all of the other government-sponsored “marketing” agencies and organizations?
Just thinking out loud…

Damon - November 29, 2011

The people have spoken, no taxes on our Christmas trees. Thank you Heritage.

Stephanie - November 29, 2011

Terrific work! How about going after Congress for giving themselves their very own retirement plan and medical coverage…Why are they above WE the people and not using the same social security (which they bankrupted) and Obama Healthcare which we are forced to live on and by?

Doug Icenhower - November 29, 2011

It’s absolutely amazing what a little organization, a smidgen of leadership, and a dollop or two of common sense can accomplish, isn’t it?

Var St. Jeor - November 29, 2011

In my opinion, the real reason for the tax was not reflected in the name of the bill, nor in the stated reason for the tax. Straight-up: That was a lie. The reason for the tax was to get the camel’s nose into the door of the tent. Just like Obama wants to do with coal, tax it out of existence. This would be president and would assist in the demise of Christmas trees, along with any other “Christmas-related,” time honored traditions found in the U.S. and within American families. Thank you to Heritage and to the voice of the American majority. Now then, lets work on bringing back the Nativity!
Var St. Jeor

W. Colborne Mullen - November 29, 2011

I posted a comment a couple weeks ago. This article is exactly what I suggested. It should result, in a positive response, for donations. This was quite interesting, to see how our dollars are spent. I hope you will be able, to post many more, informative articles. We really need, to read, of more accomplishements, and less, of this is what is wrong, and why. Thank-you, so much.

Ed Pantaloni - November 29, 2011

What I don’t see is anyone commentig that this Adminisration again defied the Constitution: only Congress can authorize taxes, not the executive.

But am not surprised by this Obama move.
He models from the European form of governance.

Need to get that out in front of public.



Randy H - November 29, 2011

Quite the achievement indeed! I can tell Ms. Warren is very proud, and I’m sure many of her readers will feel like “we really showed them”, or “take that, Obama!” But, for those who want to know the truth about this so-called “Christmas tree tax”, do a little of your own research (don’t be a part of the “sheeple”). Like me, a berry grower, you just might come to a very different conclusion about what a domestic agricultural industry (like many others already have) is doing “on their own dime” to increase marketshare over the plastic trees from China. Seek truth – not spin!!

John Crook - November 29, 2011

I am a long time member of Heritage and support 99% of what they do. But this one was misleading to say the least. l sell Christmas trees. It was not the Obama administration that wanted to impose this marketing order. It is something that the Christmas tree growers voted to impose on themselves. Cut Christmas tree sales have been declining as more people choose to use artificial trees. The industry sought to impose these fees on themselves to create a fund to promote sales of real Christmas trees.

Personally I am against all marketing orders because it is not the governments job to force everyone in an industry to participate in something like this, even if the majority want it. But lets tell it like it is, Heritage. Don’t blame things on Obama that he isn’t responsible for. There are more than enough legitimate serious problems that he can and should be blamed for. But you lose credibility when you say “the Obama administration wanted to impose a 15 cent tax on Christmas Trees”. That is more than misleading. It is inaccurate. Come on Heritage. You are better than that.

If you want to stop this from happening then get with Congress to pass a law eliminating marketing orders totally. I would back you 100%. The milk industry is a good example. They have a marketing order (that they voted to impose on themselves) to increase milk sales, yet the taxpayer ends up subsidizing them anyway. It is not the governments job to be involved in this sort of thing.

Dinah Garrison - November 29, 2011

This is off the topic, but I am having trouble finding any place to ask this question. We keep posting “how can they do that?” about all kinds of issues (I’m thinking right now about the EPA) that are supposed to belong to the Legislative branch but are being done by regulations from all kinds of different government groups. I don’t understand why the Representatives and Senators are not screaming about others taking over their jobs. We say “how can they” but it’s as though these rights are just being given away. If I were in Congress and someone tried to take over my job you would certainly hear from me.

Linda - November 29, 2011

Job well done!
Thank you, Heritage Foundation, for your rapid response and coordinated efforts in getting the message out to the American people. The results were fantastic!

Thank you also for your part in the debate last week.
Your direct questions to the candidates should be a model for future debates rather than the partner host, CNN, pitting one candidate against another.

Thank you for all you do!!


Larry May - November 29, 2011

I am a “Christmas Tree” grower… and have supported the efforts of USDA to help in marketing.
THE TAX IS PAID BY THE GROWERS – NOT THE CONSUMER! Therefore, we consider it a levy on our products sold (deminishing due to Chinese Fake trees). Sad to see such lame efforts by an organization I have suppoorted in the past – talk about disinformation!

Lauretta - November 30, 2011

I see exactly how you did it. GREAT JOB myHeritage! America is so Blessed to have all you great Patriots among her. I love you, and have a wonderful Christmas. Much love, L

Larry May - November 30, 2011

You removed my comment….
The Right is just as corupt as the Left !

John Waters - November 30, 2011

Thanks to Heritage for this action. I read the story on Drudge, then called both the Virginia and Pennsylvania Tree Growers Association to voice my strong opposition to this assault by the left. I also strongly complained to my congressman, Lou Barletta . Member, J. waters

Tom Snow - November 30, 2011

Amazing. Tenacity combined with the power of the internet.
Great work Heritage!

PADDY O - November 30, 2011

Happy HOLY days——-Happy HOLY days
Happy HOLY days to you!

May your HOLYDAY tree bring you great JOY!

Jan H. Zimmerman - November 30, 2011

Great work! Thank you Heritage. Now I would ask you to turn the spotlight on Obama’s destructive policies and actions. It appears the media have focused only on the Republican Presidential candidates and are ignoring Obama’s continued destruction of our way of life and economy. Thanks again, Keep up the great analysis and publicizing the craziness.

Chris - November 30, 2011

What I want to know is how the Obama administration gets the authority to impose any tax on anyone without a vote from Congress!

Chris - November 30, 2011

Those of you who say the tax would have been paid by the growers are being disingenuous. All costs to the producer are passed down to the consumer. If they weren’t, there would be no profit. We know how it works.

Nick Wolcyn - December 1, 2011

I am a member of the Heritage Foundation and suppport your work that you do for our country. But I must say that this story was a misrepresentation of the facts. I am a Christmas tree grower and had heard about this program for quite some time now. It was a program that was going to take 15 cents from every tree grown and use it in a marketing campagin nationwide. Much like the beef check-off or many other agriculture programs. I am the last person that would support President Obama’s policies as there are very few things that he does that I agree with. But this really had nothing to do with President Obama. It was not his idea, nor was it his administration that developed the plan for this program. It was started by Christmas tree growers. I did support the program initially, but I realize that government getting involved in marketing is always a dicy situation.

Dedra Massie - December 1, 2011

For those of you who are tree growers, I would suggest that you form a growers organization aimed at marketing–maybe lobby for a tax deduction for your dues. Bottom line, it is not the federal government’s resonsibility to support agriculture. BTW I feel the same for ALL agricutural products. Government intervention always mucks up the works.

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