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 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.