IRS spent $50 million on conferences over the last two years

A Treasury Department Inspector General's report expected to be released tomorrow will reveal that the IRS spent about $50 million on conferences and meetings over the last two years

Associated Press:

The conference spending included $4 million for an August 2010 gathering 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 baseball tickets and stays in presidential suites that normally cost $1,500 to $3,500 per night. 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.

IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said Sunday that spending on large agency conferences with 50 or more participants fell from $37.6 million in the 2010 budget year to $4.9 million in 2012. The government's fiscal year begins Oct. 1 the previous calendar year.

On Friday, the new acting commissioner, Danny Werfel, released a statement on the forthcoming report criticizing the Anaheim meeting.

"This conference is an unfortunate vestige from a prior era," Werfel said. "While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, many of the expenses associated with it were inappropriate and should not have occurred."

You don't have to try very hard to connect the two scandals. Both are born of the arrogance of officials who don't believe the rules apply to them. The arrogance it takes to have us believe that "two rogue agents" at an office in Cinccinnati are responsible for the entire targeting mess is the same kind of arrogance that spends $50,000 on videos parodying TV shows for a conference of tax collectors.

If they are going to reform the IRS, they should start by giving the agency some humility. That might mitigate some of the worst practices that are so offensive to representative government.

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