– Sen. Amy Klobuchar likes to talk about the Mall of America and how there are more visits per year to the sprawling shopping center than the combined populations of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and the entire nation of Canada.

And she likes to link its popularity — particularly among international travelers — to Brand USA, a public-private hybrid organization that crafts ad campaigns and promotions abroad to boast about the so-called rest of the United States. Beyond New York and Los Angeles, that is.

Brand USA, which Congress reauthorized for another five years, is funded by international tourists.

When travelers go through the Department of Homeland Security’s port of entry system without a visa — those from Europe and Australia, for example — they pay $14 for each trip to the U.S. That cash, along with money from the private sector, funds the USA campaign abroad, which includes online ads, print ads and travel package promotions to the U.S.

Supporters say Brand USA’s campaign alone drew an additional 1 million visitors to the United States and allowed less-touristy states, like Kentucky and Minnesota, to leverage minimal marketing dollars to reach a broader audience. (One international ad featured the Mall of America.)

“We (Minnesota) didn’t have the resources to put up giant ads in Asia,” Klobuchar said. “That’s the advantage … They show national parks, they show other parts of America besides New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.”

Minnesota’s tourism officials say they’ve seen an uptick in international visitors. There were roughly 270,000 international travelers — excluding those from Canada — each year between 2011 and 2013. The previous three years before that saw about 235,000 international travelers per year, said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism.

“We would like Minnesota to become a player in the global marketplace,” Edman said.

Klobuchar pushed Brand’s reauthorization with Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt. The notion of a small fee levied on foreigners to promote the United States is not in and of itself very controversial or partisan, but, like much on the congressional to-do list, it got shoved aside until the end of the year. It was set to expire in 2015, but Klobuchar and Blunt got it tucked into the massive measure to fund the government through next Sept. 30.

She ultimately voted against the spending bill because she disagreed with a campaign finance provision. As she cast her no vote, though, she said she knew the bill would pass.

There is another byproduct of the tourist fee: deficit reduction. By law, Brand USA can only collect $100 million. Cash raised beyond that gets returned to the U.S. Treasury. Last fiscal year, Brand returned $52 million.

Patricia Rojas-Ungar, a vice president at the U.S. Travel Association, said working on Brand USA’s reauthorization on Capitol Hill was fun because every member has something in their respective congressional district they want to brag about.

“They’re out there, they’re promoting Missouri and Wisconsin and Connecticut and Vermont,” Rojas-Ungar said. “We want people to go to our gateways, obviously our New York Cities, our Miamis, but we want them to go to Minnesota and we want them to go to the Mall of America.”