I’m On a Boat…Squid finally emerged from the lair on Saturday for some sun and warmth following a week of being glued to Squid’s computer, eating huge buckets of shrimp-flavored popcorn and live-streaming the impeachment hearings. Squid’s favorite witness, Squid has decided, was Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who played the role of coquettish ingenue almost flawlessly. His “who, me?” anecdotes and that charming head tilt will make Squid giggle for years to come. Squid didn’t even mind, as one Twitter account put it, that Sondland looks like a smug hardboiled egg. And Fiona Hill—can she be Secretary of State after Trump is ousted from office? Hope springs eternal.
But during breaks in testimony, Squid was jarred to see an ad repeatedly pop up—on Facebook, on Twitter and even on various news sites. The headline on the ad reads, “‘Our’ Congressman Jimmy Panetta"and the narrative is as follows:
“‘Our’ Congressman, Jimmy Panetta, is proposing to ‘improve’ the Trump tax bill for the two billionaire brothers who own two mega-yachts. Congressman Panetta’s legislation will subsidize these billionaire brothers an extra $500 million in Trump’s tax breaks.
‘Ask Congressman Jimmy Panetta.’”
Squid was outraged—outraged!—to hear that Congressman Jimmy Panetta was swinging tax breaks to a pair of yacht-traveling billionaires and embarked on a course of action to give Panetta a piece of Squid’s mind. After all, the producers of the ad—the Unite Here! Political Action Committee—asked viewers to ask Panetta, and so Squid followed said instructions.
“Hey Jimmy, what gives?”
Turns out what gives has absolutely nothing to do with California, and nothing to do with the Central Coast of California, and everything to do with a labor beef in Nevada involving Stations Casinos owners Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta, sons of Stations founder Frank Fertitta Jr. and the billionaire brothers in the ad. It seems that Unite Here!, the union that represents hotel workers, is trying to unionize at a couple of Stations properties, including The Palms. (Gorgeous hotel, great art collection, including a few Banksys and Damian Hirsts).
And if you’re as baffled as Squid why Unite Here! wants to call out Panetta on a Las Vegas labor issue, well, you’re not the only one.
“Look, I think I’m as confused as everyone else, not only at the ad but at why a Las Vegas group would connect a Las Vegas labor issue with a small-business labor issue,” Panetta tells one of Squid’s human colleagues, adding he’s never met the “two brothers” at the heart of the labor beef and probably wouldn’t recognize them if they were standing in front of him. “We have spoken with the local Unite Here! representatives and their response was, ‘We have unwavering support for Congressman Panetta and you might want to talk to the national Unite Here! organization.’”
Panetta’s bill, H.R. 1869, is titled the Restoring Investments in Improvements Act. It’s bipartisan and seeks to redress a wrong left in Donald Trump’s Jobs and Tax Act, which was originally intended to allow small businesses to depreciate capital improvements. The Jobs and Tax Act allows depreciation—over 39 years. Panetta’s bill, co-authored Indiana Republican Jackie Walorski, allows businesses to take the depreciation starting in the first year.
Panetta and Walorski have 280 co-sponsors from both sides of the political aisle, including three Democratic members in Las Vegas and Nevada’s two senators.
“Because the tax bill was rushed and without hearings, it was done with clerical errors and this bill fixes the clerical errors,” Panetta says. “I’m very sympathetic to the labor issues in Las Vegas, but it shouldn’t affect businesses here on the Central Coast.”
Still, Squid can never quite tell if a politician is spinning, so Squid reached out to a small businessman on the Central Coast. And discovered that Panetta wasn’t spinning.
“It’s correcting a flaw in the act that was originally intended to allow small businesses to depreciate improvements in the first year,” says Kirk Gafill, general manager at Nepenthe in Big Sur. “From a financial standpoint, if we need to make $200,000 in qualified improvements, under current law we would have to depreciate it over 39 years, so that reduces incentives to make necessary improvements and has a downstream effect on equipment manufacturers and installers. And it reduces profitability if you’re not reinvesting properly in infrastructure.
“It’s the equivalent of an economic stimulus bill,” Gafill says, and adds that the Unite Here! ad “seemed like a real hit piece.
“The idea that this legislation is solely for the benefit of two individuals of enormous means seemed incongruent to Congressman Panetta’s philosophy and way of doing business,” Gafill adds.
Squid’s colleague reached out to Unite Here! and the organization’s communication team. When (if?) they get back to Squid, Squid will have an update with what they have to say.
In the meantime, Squid invites all of the pro- and anti-Panetta people who are engaging in open warfare on social media over this ad to take a big fat chill pill and do a little research before lobbing the next smug and rotten egg at each other.