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Social Security Execs Boogie Down at Lavish Phoenix Conference

SSA says $700,000 event was necessary to reduce stress caused by death threats.

ByABC News
July 14, 2009, 9:51 PM

July 15, 2009— -- Claiming they needed to learn how to reduce stress because of a growing number of death threats being made against them, nearly 700 executives from the Social Security Administration (SSA) gathered for a lavish three-day conference in Phoenix, AZ last week, costing taxpayers about $700,000.

"We received threats against our employees by people who are in the American public," said SSA Regional Commissioner for San Francisco Peter Spencer in defense of the conference. He said "there is a tremendous amount of stress involved in the job that we do."

The conference, which included a performance by a motivational dance company that was captured on tape by Phoenix affiliate ABC15, was held at the Arizona Biltmore, a hotel described as the "Jewel of the Desert" with an oasis of 39 acres of lush gardens, swimming pools and a golf course. SSA executives were invited to join in the dancing.

Click here to see the report by ABC15.

But the partying didn't stop there. Some of the government managers brought along their relatives, and there was a night excursion to a local casino.

Even top Social Security administrator Michael Astrue made a special guest appearance. His spokesman said he flew coach, and the SSA said it arranged the lowest rate possible for the event.

Critics were incensed with the spending, especially during a financial crisis, and took issue with the idea that executives saved as much money as possible.

"Actually, they didn't do it as low cost as possible," said David Williams of the watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste group. "Because as low cost as possible would be a video teleconference. It would not be flying people in from all around the country to have this conference."

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The unwritten rules of the game matter a lot in presidential nomination politics, and in the past, a candidate like Haley — like John McCain in 2000 or Mitt Romney in 2008 — might stay in the race long enough to establish themselves as a viable candidate for a future race. But there’s also pressure for a candidate who clearly won’t win to suspend their campaign and unify the party. Trump’s unusual political trajectory has scrambled these unwritten rules of the game, however. Haley has said she won’t \"kiss the ring\", but there will be a lot of talk about whether she should leave the race, as the other competitors have. This depends not only on how the informal rules of the game work, but also on what Haley’s goals are. If she’s mostly setting her sights on 2028, then we might expect her to wind her candidacy down soon, in order to regain some standing among an increasingly Trump-loyal GOP. But her comments this week suggest that she’s running to push back on Trump’s dominance in the party, and perhaps to make the point that a political party is still just that: not only a movement focused on a single individual.","idAttr":""},{"type":"paragraph","id":1,"content":"—Julia Azari, 538 contributor","idAttr":""}],"inlines":[],"headline":"Haley and the unwritten rules of the game","id":"107521626","linkText":"","pageType":"SinglePage","subHead":"","hasConnatix":false},"featuredVideo":null,"featuredImage":null,"dateModified":"2024-02-25T00:14:31Z","datePublished":"2024-02-25T00:14:36Z","renderingHints":[],"contentFlag":null,"wordCount":225,"readTime":"2 min read","config":{"showAds":true,"showComments":true,"showSponsoredLinks":true},"displayAdKeyValues":{"tag":"abcnews/538","objid":"107521626","pgn":"538","pgtyp":"story","lang":"en","sp":"abcnews","programmatic":"true","bundleId":"com.abcnews"},"metadata":{"timestamp":"2024-02-25T00:14:36Z","dateModified":"2024-02-25T00:14:31Z","sourceLine":"ABC News","title":"Haley and the unwritten rules of the game","description":"","canonicalUrl":"https://abcnews.go.com","noIndexNoFollow":false},"canonical":"https://abcnews.go.com/538/live-updates/south-carolina-primary-2024-live-blog/haley-and-the-unwritten-rules-of-the-game-107521626?id=107414634","articleUrl":"https://abcnews.go.com","section":"538","announcementType":"","tracking":{"word_count":225,"media_on_page":"","article_id":"107414634","article_headline":"South Carolina primary 2024: Trump projected to win","content_type":"liveblog post","position_number":0,"global.TagID":"aclick_news06a","liveblog.post_headline":"Haley and the unwritten rules of the game","liveblog.post_id":"107521626","by_line":"Julia Azari"},"inlines":[],"date":{"date":"2024-02-25T00:14:36Z","preFormat":"MMM DD, h:mm A z","postFormat":"MMM DD, h:mm A z","useShort":false,"text":"2024-02-25T00:14:36Z","threshold":4,"thresholdType":"hours"},"relativeDate":{"date":"2024-02-25T00:14:36Z","preFormat":"relative","postFormat":"MMM DD, h:mm A z","useShort":false,"text":"2024-02-25T00:14:36Z","threshold":4,"thresholdType":"hours"},"shareURLs":{"fb":"https://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=https://abcnews.go.com/538/live-updates/south-carolina-primary-2024-live-blog/haley-and-the-unwritten-rules-of-the-game-107521626?id=107414634","fbLabel":"Share to Facebook","fbAppId":"4942312939","twitter":"http://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Haley and the unwritten rules of the game - ABC News - https://abcnews.go.com/538/live-updates/south-carolina-primary-2024-live-blog/haley-and-the-unwritten-rules-of-the-game-107521626?id=107414634&via=ABC","twitterLabel":"Share to Twitter","twitterAmpLabel":"Haley and the unwritten rules of the game - ABC News via @ABC -","email":"mailto:?subject=Haley%20and%20the%20unwritten%20rules%20of%20the%20game&body=https%3A%2F%2Fabcnews.go.com%2F538%2Flive-updates%2Fsouth-carolina-primary-2024-live-blog%2Fhaley-and-the-unwritten-rules-of-the-game-107521626%3Fid%3D107414634","emailLabel":"Email this article","emailType":"customemail","canonical":"https://abcnews.go.com/538/live-updates/south-carolina-primary-2024-live-blog/haley-and-the-unwritten-rules-of-the-game-107521626?id=107414634","shortLink":"https://abcnews.go.com/538/live-updates/south-carolina-primary-2024-live-blog/haley-and-the-unwritten-rules-of-the-game-107521626?id=107414634"}},{"id":"107521439","authors":[{"name":"Kaleigh Rogers","metaDescription":"","keywords":"Kaleigh Rogers","title":"Politics and technology reporter","images":[{"id":"105698658","type":"ImageMaster","name":"KALEIGH-ROGERS-abc-gmh-12152023_1702668561922_hpEmbed","alt":"PHOTO: Kaleigh Rogers","altText":"PHOTO: Kaleigh Rogers","caption":"Kaleigh Rogers","credit":"ABC News/538","crops":{"1x1":{"xxsmall":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/538/KALEIGH-ROGERS-abc-gmh-12152023_1702668561922_hpEmbed_1x1_96.jpg","xsmall":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/538/KALEIGH-ROGERS-abc-gmh-12152023_1702668561922_hpEmbed_1x1_144.jpg","small":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/538/KALEIGH-ROGERS-abc-gmh-12152023_1702668561922_hpEmbed_1x1_240.jpg","medium":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/538/KALEIGH-ROGERS-abc-gmh-12152023_1702668561922_hpEmbed_1x1_384.jpg","large":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/538/KALEIGH-ROGERS-abc-gmh-12152023_1702668561922_hpEmbed_1x1_608.jpg","xlarge":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/538/KALEIGH-ROGERS-abc-gmh-12152023_1702668561922_hpEmbed_1x1_992.jpg","xxlarge":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/538/KALEIGH-ROGERS-abc-gmh-12152023_1702668561922_hpEmbed_1x1_1600.jpg"}}}],"url":"https://abcnews.go.com/author/kaleigh_rogers","social":[{"name":"Twitter","linkHeadline":"@KaleighRogers","url":"https://twitter.com/KaleighRogers"}],"units":[],"bureaus":[]}],"alertTag":null,"articleImage":{"url":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/us/abc_news_default_2000x2000_update_16x9_1600.jpg","height":900,"width":1600,"@type":"ImageObject"},"headline":"Why is Haley still running?","articleContents":{"dateLine":"","authors":[{"displayName":"Kaleigh Rogers","headshot":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/538/KALEIGH-ROGERS-abc-gmh-12152023_1702668561922_hpEmbed_1x1_240.jpg","link":"https://abcnews.go.com/author/kaleigh_rogers","url":"https://abcnews.go.com/author/kaleigh_rogers","unit":null,"bureau":null,"linkTracking":{}}],"body":[{"type":"paragraph","id":0,"content":"Haley is the last one standing among major candidates competing with Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. With the odds so devastatingly stacked against her, what exactly is Haley trying to do by continuing her campaign and risking getting trounced in her home state?","idAttr":""},{"type":"paragraph","id":1,"content":"As I wrote on the site last week, there are certain benefits to presidential runs even when it seems clear a candidate isn't going to become the nominee. One such benefit is raising a candidate's profile in the public eye, something Haley has definitely reaped throughout the primary. When she officially launched her campaign last February, the share of Americans who had either a favorable or unfavorable opinion on her (a decent proxy for a candidate's name recognition) hovered around 55-60 percent. Lately, that number is closer to 75 percent:","idAttr":""},{"type":"ad","provider":"teads","position":"incontentTeads","id":2,"devices":["desktop","mobile","tablet"],"kvps":{}},{"type":"inline","idx":3,"id":"1"},{"type":"paragraph","id":4,"content":"It could be that Haley is continuing her campaign to tee up a 2028 bid. The GOP tends to favor also-rans when choosing a nominee in years when there isn't an incumbent running: From 1980 through 2020, there was only one year (2000) when the Republican nominee wasn't either an incumbent or someone who had run previously (if you count Trump's third-party run for president in 2000). And as Trump's only major challenger still in the race, she's still pulling in media and public attention, as well as a decent supply of donations.","idAttr":""},{"type":"paragraph","id":5,"content":"Haley has become increasingly critical of Trump. Despite previously serving in his administration, Haley says Trump is no longer \"the right president.\" She's dragged him for his legal woes and drawn attention to his age. Positioning herself in this way could serve future political ambitions by setting her up as the new face of the Reagan wing of the GOP.","idAttr":""},{"type":"paragraph","id":6,"content":"Some of the other benefits of a continued run are less likely to explain Haley's tenacity. Given her conservative record as governor, she's not exactly trying to push Trump or the party to the center (despite garnering some support among moderate and independent voters). And given Trump's hardline on loyalty, it's unlikely she'd be able to parlay this campaign into another job in a second Trump administration. Besides, she says she's not interested anyway, telling the “Today” show recently: \"I don't want anything. I don't want [to be] vice president.\"","idAttr":""},{"type":"ad","provider":"yieldmo","position":"incontentYieldmo","id":7,"devices":["mobile"],"kvps":{}},{"type":"inline","idx":8,"id":"2"},{"type":"paragraph","id":9,"content":"And of course, we shouldn't write off the potential that Haley still thinks there's a path for her to win. Trump's continued legal disputes remain an unknown factor, and Haley could be hoping that by simply hanging on long enough, she could become the next best option should Trump, for one reason or another, no longer be a viable nominee.","idAttr":""},{"type":"ad","provider":"teads","position":"incontentTeads2","id":10,"devices":["desktop","tablet"],"kvps":{}},{"type":"paragraph","id":11,"content":"—Kaleigh Rogers, 538","idAttr":""}],"inlines":[{"type":"iframe","id":"107521439-1","idx":0,"text":null,"attrs":{"src":"https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/03UjS/1/","height":"500","width":"100%","allowable":"","scrolling":"no","frameBorder":"0","title":"Haley","id":"datawrapper-chart-03UjS","aria-label":"Interactive line chart"},"classNames":""},{"id":"107521439-2","type":"image","imageSrc":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/Politics/nikki-haley-gty-gmh-240223_1708706237140_hpEmbed_3x2_992.jpg","imageAlt":"PHOTO: Republican Presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign 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We’ll be sticking around for a while yet, though, to see what the exact margin is, how many delegates Trump will win and whether Haley will drop out following this decisive defeat.","idAttr":""},{"type":"paragraph","id":1,"content":"—Nathaniel Rakich, 538","idAttr":""},{"type":"ad","provider":"teads","position":"incontentTeads","id":2,"devices":["desktop","mobile","tablet"],"kvps":{}},{"type":"inline","idx":3,"id":"1"}],"inlines":[{"id":"107521429-1","type":"image","imageSrc":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/trump-cpac-gty-jt-240224_1708803912524_hpMain_16x9_992.jpg","imageAlt":"PHOTO: Former President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting on Feb. 24, 2024, in National Harbor, Maryland.","caption":"Former President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting on Feb. 24, 2024, in National Harbor, 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As was the case in New Hampshire, Haley and her allies have outspent Trump, and the 13-to-1 disparity is only more striking when juxtaposed with her lack of movement in the polls.","idAttr":""},{"type":"paragraph","id":1,"content":"Haley’s campaign has spent $5.8 million on ads in South Carolina, according to AdImpact, which tracks political ad spending. And her allies at Stand for America, the super PAC set up to support her bid, and Americans for Prosperity Action, the Charles Koch-affiliated group that endorsed her last year, have chipped in a combined $10.3 million. The vast majority of that spending ($14.2 million of it) has come in the last six weeks, since the Iowa caucuses. Another anti-Trump group, the Club for Growth PAC Win it Back, spent $1.7 million against the former president last summer.","idAttr":""},{"type":"ad","provider":"teads","position":"incontentTeads","id":2,"devices":["desktop","mobile","tablet"],"kvps":{}},{"type":"inline","idx":3,"id":"1"},{"type":"paragraph","id":4,"content":"Trump, meanwhile, has spent just $1.2 million to date — and his allies’ super PACs have barely spent anything. To put that in perspective, Never Back Down, the super PAC formed to support the failed campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has spent three times as much in South Carolina as Trump has — and it hasn’t aired any ads since July of last year.","idAttr":""},{"type":"paragraph","id":5,"content":"It’s not a complete surprise that Haley is pouring so much more money into South Carolina. It’s pretty close to a must-win for her at this point, so she’s not well-served by saving her cash for later. But also, as her most recent FEC filings demonstrated, she actually raised more money than Trump in January.","idAttr":""},{"type":"paragraph","id":6,"content":"Will that translate into electoral success? The polling says it’s not likely. But if Haley does pull off the upset of the cycle, her massive spending advantage will be a big part of why.","idAttr":""},{"type":"ad","provider":"yieldmo","position":"incontentYieldmo","id":7,"devices":["mobile"],"kvps":{}},{"type":"paragraph","id":8,"content":"—Jacob Rubashkin, Inside Elections","idAttr":""}],"inlines":[{"id":"107521428-1","type":"image","imageSrc":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/nikki-haley-sign-gty-gmh-240223_1708708069892_hpEmbed_3x2_992.jpg","imageAlt":"PHOTO: Supporters listen to US Republican Presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speak during a campaign event in Beaufort, South Carolina, Feb. 21, 2024. 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