Inspector General to Investigate Lavish Commerce Department Conferences

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By Lachlan Markay

The Commerce Department’s inspector general will investigate whether an obscure agency within the department spent millions of dollars on an annual conference near Disney World in Florida. The agency has disputed those allegations, first brought by congressional Republicans on behalf of a whistleblower.


If the whistleblowers’ numbers — contained in a document reportedly sent to Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) — are correct, they could fuel yet another scandal pertaining to agency expenditures on lavish retreats for their employees. The General Services Administration and the Veterans Administration have also come under fire for wildly expensive events for their employees.

But the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Commerce agency that hosted the conferences in question, disputes Adams’ whistleblower report. According to the NIST-MEP, the agency has spent anywhere from $480,000 to $670,000 on its annual conferences since 2006 — still hefty sums, but significantly less than the $3 million to $5 million alleged by Adams.

The Commerce Department’s IG will attempt to resolve those discrepancies, according to an announcement posted on its website last week. The investigation looks to determine the “legitimacy and reasonableness” of conference expenditures.

Here is the IG’s announcement of the investigation: