Human Events Blog

Love the GSA blowout in Las Vegas? How about 153 more of them?

The General Services Administration’s 2010 regional conference in Las Vegas has become a legendary example of wasteful government spending – a million-dollar Ragnarok of bureaucratic excess, in which officials showered themselves with crazy tax-funded goodies, ranging from clowns and mind readers, to lavish prizes for a video contest… whose winning entry essentially mocked the taxpayers who footed the bill.

The GSA itself came to be viewed as a particularly irresponsible agency after this off-Broadway production of The Hangover, but as House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) pointed out to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a letter on Wednesday, there’s plenty more where that came from.  Issa found 153 conferences where the cost per attendee was actually higher than the outrageous $3,000 a head, or $600 a day, spent by the GSA in Vegas.  64 of them came from the Department of Defense, which is why Panetta was among the first to learn of Rep. Issa’s gruesome discoveries.

“As part of the Committee’s ongoing investigation into government-wide spending on conferences, I request additional information about those conferences,” Issa wrote to Panetta, setting a September 5 deadline for the delivery of documents and communications pertaining to their planning and execution.  Panetta was also encouraged to let Issa know if the House Oversight chairman missed any really awesome $3000-per-person parties while preparing his report.

Issa noted that his committee was not “prejudging the importance and usefulness of these conferences,” some of which might have resulted in legitimately high travel expenses, as they were held overseas.  House Oversight wants additional information to “enable the Committee to determine if expenditures were appropriate and taxpayer dollars were wasted

According to the Washington Examiner, the agency with the second highest number of expensive conferences was the Social Security Administration (22 conferences with costs in excess of $3000 per person), followed by the United States Agency for International Development (21) and the United States Department of Agriculture (15).  The Department of Education and Small Business Administration fared best, with only 2 apiece.  The GSA had six of them altogether.  All agencies with such high-cost conferences have been contacted by the House Oversight Committee and asked to provide additional documentation.

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