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Costly conferences and copious questionnaires

"Costly conferences and copious questionnaires" Continued...

“It is the law of the land,” said Rep. Dave Reichert, noting that Democrats might not like that Supreme Court decision the same way Republicans might not like the court’s decision upholding Obamacare.

While lawmakers debated one another at the hearing, the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration released an audit on the agency’s elaborate conferences. The 225 events with a taxpayer price tag of $49 million included the budget for elaborate video skits complete with sets and staring IRS employees dressed up as characters from Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island.

A 2010 conference for 2,600 IRS employees held in Anaheim, Calif., included 15 guest speakers who were paid a combined $135,350. One speaker got $14,000 to talk about “how seemingly random combinations of ideas can drive radical innovations.” Another speaker received $17,000 for painting six portraits of famous people at two sessions.

The audit says that the IRS did not negotiate for lower hotel rates and event planners were paid $66,500 in commission from the hotels. IRS staffers took three pre-conference planning trips to California, costing about $35,800. The IRS forked over more than $30,000 for 45 IRS employees who lived in the local area to stay at the hotels.

And with the IRS blaming the targeting of conservative groups partly on an overworked, undermanned staff, the audit found that about $3.2 million of the conference budget came from dollars earmarked for hiring.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.

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