New GSA Video Puts Agency in Issa's Crosshairs
The House committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yet another new video clip today from the U.S. General Services Administration's big-spending conference in Las Vegas, extending the embarrassing episode for the agency and the Obama administration.
In the newly surfaced clip, which is titled "POTUS [President of the United States] Wants a Press Event," employees sing a fast-tempo melody, "Are you ready for a miracle? GSA's going green."
At one point, a roomful of GSA employees holding a portrait of President Obama sings, "Martha and Bob to take the lead, you know they need us so, POTUS wants a press event, a project he can show."
An administration official leaked videos from the conference Friday to the Huffington Post, but the committee says this previously unseen clip from the awards show was not included in that video dump. When the clip, which features dozens of GSA employees, was played Oct. 28, 2010, at the "Capstone Dinner Event," GSA convention organizer Jeffrey Neely remarks, "That was amazing, was there anybody in Region 7 who wasn't in that thing?"
"If they didn't work on Friday, then chances are they weren't in the video," answered another GSA representative named Karen, drawing laughter from the crowd.
The video clip is another black eye for the government agency, after multiple videos were uncovered in an inspector general's investigation, drawing sharp criticism from the House's top cop, Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee, for wasting taxpayer money.
"This is not just about a single convention, but a festering culture of entitlement and wasting taxpayer money within the federal bureaucracy," Issa, R-Calif., wrote in a statement. "Taxpayer's time should be used for real work and not a high school musical like production on the Obama administration's stimulus spending spree.
"Eleven months after the GSA inspector general briefed the Obama Administration on the facts about waste and wrongdoing, we are still looking for accountability and answers about delayed action that does not fully address the underlying problem."
The House committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released new details last week from a report showing that GSA spent nearly $440,000 on "lavish gifts" such iPods and digital cameras for an incentive program for its employees.
The GSA was under fire a day earlier for a video featuring a U.S. General Services Administration employee joking about excess government spending.
Even before that video came to light, the agency was being criticized for spending about $823,000 on a Las Vegas convention in 2010 for 300 employees, which included thousands of dollars spent on items such as a commemorative coin set, a mind reader, a comedian and a clown.
GSA administrator Martha Johnson resigned abruptly after the GSA inspector general presented findings of abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars from the conference.
A review of budgets for the past four conferences conducted by Politico shows a pattern of increased spending for the conference before President Obama took office during the Bush administration, with costs climbing from $93,000 in 2004 to $323,855 in 2006 and soaring above $655,000 in 2008.
When Congress returns to Washington after the Easter recess, the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management will convene a hearing April 19 to review the matter.
One Republican source close to the Oversight committee said Issa is working to schedule his own hearings into the matter, but plans have not been finalized. The source said the committee intends to investigate GSA spending from the previous administration and will ask for documentation "from the last several years."
As he prepared to take over as chairman of the committee after the GOP's landslide victory in 2010, Issa pledged to follow leads that began during the Bush administration. "I'm going to be investigating a president of my own party, because many of the issues we're working on began [with] President Bush or even before, and haven't been solved," Issa told MSNBC after the election Nov. 3, 2011.