WASHINGTON, D.C. -- There is more fallout from an Action News Washington Bureau investigation of tax money squandered on pricey government conferences and lavish trips. Lawmakers have formally proposed new legislation to crack down on lavish spending during trips.
We first told you how the US General Services Administration spent nearly a million dollars for an employee party in Las Vegas. The VA spent tens of thousands of dollars for a conference for employees near Disney World. They even shuttled workers to the resorts. A congressional aide tipped me off this week about a new crackdown, saying this is, "right up your alley."
The proposed law would force government agencies that spend too much on travel and events to return some of their money to the US Treasury.
If an agency spends more than $600 a day per employee for a conference, the money must be returned. That's how much was spent on that outrageous party in Vegas, staged by the US General Services Administration in 2010. The outing included fine meals, gifts, entertainment, and a mind reader.
Despite promises of a crackdown, Ohio Republican Jim Jordan says the US government has staged 183 additional, expensive conferences in the months since.
"If you go over what that extravagant conference spent, if you exceed that, you've gotta give the money back and the taxpayers have to be made whole," said congressman Jordan.
Some federal agencies have reduced conference costs recently. The US Department of Transportation trimmed down from $12 million in 2010 to a half million last year.
But the congressman and a transportation leader had a heated exchange this week over whether further reductions are needed.
"You come to the committee and you don't know how many conferences you went to?" asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
"Because we've already achieved the savings we think we can achieve in conferences," responded Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari.
"You might think you've achieved it, but the American taxpayer doesn't," said Congressman Jordan.
Agencies defend a lot of these conferences as being vital, including the Department of Transportation. The agency says its events include safety lessons for air traffic controllers.
Our reporting of a US Postal Service conference this month, which included a golf outing and dance party has triggered even more congressional reviews of how government agencies stage events.
The newly proposed law cracking down on government conferences has both democratic and republican support, but has yet to be approved by the US House.