(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) expressed its frustration over yet another conference spending scandal within the federal government, this time at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). According to a report released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the IRS spent $49 million at 225 conferences between 2010 and 2012, including $4.1 million for a single 2010 conference in Anaheim, California.
The Anaheim conference, which TIGTA audited after receiving reports of wasteful spending, featured 15 outside speakers at a combined cost of $135,350, including one speaker who delivered two hour-long presentations during which he created paintings of Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, and Bono, among others, while delivering his “message of unlearning the rules, breaking the boundaries, and freeing the thought process” at a cost to taxpayers of $17,000. One imagines it would have been cheaper to revive Honest Abe himself. Another speaker was paid $27,500, including a first-class travel fee, for two speeches on his “concept of Intersectional Ideas.” TIGTA also revealed that the IRS spent roughly $50,000 on a series of videos for the conference, including a Star Trek Parody filmed at the IRS’s television studio in New Carrolton, Maryland. Why the IRS owns and operates a television studio in the first place was not part of TIGTA’s investigation.
For government agencies, the hits just keep on coming. Today’s TIGTA report kicked off the third such scandal at a major federal agency in the last 15 months. In April, 2012, a General Services Administration (GSA) IG famously unearthed an $820,000 conference in Las Vegas from October, 2010 that included a $75,000 bicycle-building exercise, a $1,960 party in the Public Buildings Service Commissioner’s suite, and $6,300 for commemorative coins. Also in 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) IG found that $6.1 million had been spent on conferences in 2010 and 2011, including $280,698 in excess of the VA’s contract with an Orlando Marriott hotel and $37,489 on travel reimbursements for employees staying late or arriving early to conferences, among other offenses.
“In a time when the big spenders have been carping about supposed ‘austerity’ and budget cuts, it is extremely disappointing, though not surprising, to have further proof that taxpayers are already getting ripped off at current spending levels,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “In the case of the IRS, the epidemic of taxpayer identity fraud, which has already cost taxpayers billions of dollars and will almost certainly cost them more in the coming years. The IRS blew precious resources on these inane activities when it has other pressing concerns and is constantly asking Congress for more money. It is becoming increasingly clear that the IRS and other agencies have plenty of money, but that they would rather spend it on themselves than on the delivery of services,” Schatz concluded.