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Your Tax Dollars at Work at GSA's "Lavish Conferfence"

Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) has a nice and short summary of the "lavish conference spending" by the General Services Administration (GSA). For the gory details, TCS includes links to a Washington Post story, the GSA OIG report, and both CBS and NBC news reports. Here is TCS's summary:

"The media has been awash with reports on the more than $800,000 Las Vegas, NV conference the Western Regions of the General Services Agency (GSA) threw for themselves in 2010. Justifiably so.

"While the rest of the country was mired in a recession and Americans were struggling to make ends meet, GSA leadership from the Western Regions cooked up this outrageous internal meeting. To prepare for the conference, which a senior GSA official specifically directed to be “over the top,” staff made eight separate planning visits which cost taxpayers more than $130,000. They had a mind reader, a magician, and even an employee dressed up in a rented clown costume. A team-building exercise – building 24 bikes – cost $75,000. But it wasn’t just the excesses; GSA staff shared competitor bid information to ensure that the “right” hotel got the contract, and negotiations to get the government rate at the hotel guaranteed $41,000 in additional catering charges. You can’t make this stuff up.

"The Inspector General’s report mentions that some employees tried to rein in costs and were rebuffed. And at least one GSA employee complained to the Deputy Administrator of the GSA, who forwarded the complaint on to the IG’s office. The IG thoroughly investigated, and some heads ended up rolling at the agency. So in one sense the process worked, and as budget watchdogs we count on the IG offices, but it’s hard to fathom what these people were thinking as they prepared the conference. Perhaps that mind reader can tell us."

Lavish spending for conferences. More highly compensated, on average, than private sector workers. Heh, no wonder a recent Rasmussen Reports (TM) poll found:

"A majority of adults nationwide continues to believe that those who work for the government have it easier than those in the private sector and get paid more for it.

"Sixty-six percent (66%) of American Adults believe private sector workers work harder than government workers, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just eight percent (8%) say government employees are the harder workers, but another 25% are undecided."

More government. Just what is needed, right? Not! The OIG report even went so far as to say:

"The evidence the OIG developed, however, showed the goal was not to minimize costs, but to be 'over the top.'" (emphasis added)

UPDATE (4/14/12): At Washington Free Beacon, C.J. Ciaramella reports the administration knew about the scandal and that the "official responsible received only 'slap on the wrist,' and added:

"The General Services Administration official responsible for the agency’s lavish 2010 conference at a Las Vegas resort received only “a slap on the wrist” after agency administrators became aware of the wasteful spending, according to an internal GSA email released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Friday.

"The email, dated July 8, 2011, is from GSA Deputy Administrator Susan Brita to agency officials. In the email, Brita raised concerns that the agency’s lax discipline against Jeff Neely—who managed the now-infamous Vegas conference that featured mind readers and clowns—would look bad when facts of the conference were released to the public.

"Neely only received a disciplinary letter after GSA administrators first became aware of an impending inspector general report on the conference that cost taxpayers more than $800,000."

UPDATE (4/15/12): The editorial in tomorrow's Washington Examiner points out the "GSA 'jackasses' (are) not alone in fleecing  taxpayers."

UPDATE (4/15/12): Thanks to a friend who just e-mailed me this link to a Politico story that begins, "The General Services Administration official tasked with organizing a now-infamous $822,000 Las Vegas conference plans to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights ahead of a scheduled Monday grilling on the Hill." He snarkily commented, "I thought this option was reserved only for Mafia bosses and corrupt union thugs......"

UDATE (4/17/12): Today, the Washington Free Beacon reports, "Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid encouraged the federal government to allow taxpayer-funded trips to “resort towns” like Las Vegas," and cites a Roll Call story.


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