There are close ties between the entertainment parks' owner, venture capital firm The Blackstone Group, and Mitt Romney's campaign. Blackstone's co-founder and CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, once compared President Obama's economic policies to those of Hitler, and is a high-profile supporter of Governor Romney, although many people at Blackstone are Democrats.
Meanwhile, a new poll out today shows that Republicans are far more likely to support orca captivity than Democrats. Republicans and GOP-leaning voters are slightly more likely to favor captivity (36%) than oppose it (30%), while Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters are opposed by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 (46% vs. 22%).
Although Republicans are 61% more likely to favor orca captivity than Democrats, support among both parties is hardly robust: Just 5% of Democrats and 13% of Republicans "strongly favor" the practice.
As for Romney and Schwarzman, they are friends and colleagues, having grown wealthy during the heady leveraged buyouts days of the 1980s. Romney was the lead dealmaker at Bain, buying and selling companies to make money for investors. When asked why he was endorsing Romney, Schwarzman noted that Romney had earned Blackstone "16 times profit" in their first deal together. "In finance, that's a way to make friends," he said. Blackstone and Bain currently co-own The Weather Channel, Houghton Mifflin Company, Michaels Stores, and others.
A federal judge has sided with the Obama Administration in a lawsuit filed by SeaWorld to overturn the 2010 OSHA violation in the death of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau. SeaWorld v. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was a landmark case that could bring a new federal crackdown on the animal entertainment industry. It could also lead to a permanent ban on allowing orca trainers in the water at SeaWorld, something the corporation desperately wants to prevent.
Now the case really gets political: SeaWorld has appealed the case to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in DC. We will know soon if the three-member, presidentially appointed panel will review the case.
It could be an interesting election-year showdown: Romney-backer Schwarzman takes on Obama Secretary Solis.
David Kirby will launch his book tour for Death At SeaWorld on Tuesday, July 17, at the Barnes and Noble Tribeca store, 97 Warren Street, New York City, from 6-8PM.