RS SPENT $50 MILLION FOR CONFERENCES, REPORT FINDS; ‘EXPENSIVE PRESIDENTIAL SUITES,’ ‘FREE DRINKS’
Jun. 2, 2013 4:01pm
WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — A government watchdog has found that the Internal Revenue Service spent about $50 million to hold at least 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012, according to a House committee.
That total included $4 million for an August 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif., for which the agency did not negotiate lower room rates, even though that is standard government practice, according to a statement by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Instead, some of the 2,600 attendees received benefits, including staying in expensive presidential suites. In addition, 15 outside speakers were paid a total of $135,000 in fees, with one paid $17,000 to talk about “leadership through art,” the House committee said.
The report by Treasury Department’s inspector general, set to be released Tuesday, comes as the IRS already is facing bipartisan criticism after agency officials disclosed they had targeted tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to extra scrutiny.
According to congressional aides briefed by the inspector general’s office, the IRS also did not formally seek competitive bids for the city where the agency’s 2010 conference was held, for the event planner who assisted the agency, or for the speakers.
The aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a confidential congressional briefing, said other benefits given to some attendees at the Anaheim IRS conference included vouchers for free drinks and some tickets to attend Angels baseball games.
“In Anaheim, when they bought their tickets, they said we’ll pay the per diem rate for these hotel rooms. They didn’t negotiate. They didn’t bid it. And this is 2,700 folks, so they could have gotten a considerable reduction,” the House Oversight committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “Instead what they said is, ‘We’ll pay full boat, but we want some perks.’ So they ended up with free drinks, they ended up with tickets to games, basically kickbacks.”
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