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Bridget Johnson

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April 19, 2012 - 9:56 am

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has asked House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to investigate special permissions granted by the Obama administration to hold government conferences in Las Vegas.

The request came the same week that key GSA figures have been making the rounds on Capitol Hill to testify about the 2010 regional conference in Sin City that stuck taxpayers with more than $800,000 in party bills.

In his letter to Issa yesterday, Paul attached a June 2009 letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel encouraging the administration to reverse “highly detrimental informal” recent policy on conferences in Las Vegas.

Reid’s letter asks that a “directive of letter to federal agencies” be issued indicating that it’s not a “permissible consideration” to discount Vegas as a conference site because it’s “too leisure oriented to be awarded such business.”

“Every hotel in America is leisure oriented,” Reid argued.

Reid noted to Emanuel that the FBI, GSA and Bureau of Indian Affairs had to relocate conferences from Vegas because of the policy. He argued that at an average nightly room rate of $98, the government could save some money.

“While Las Vegas has a well-earned reputation as a world-class dining and entertainment destination, it also offers an unmatched location for conducting business in terms of cost and availability of convention and related space,” Reid wrote. “It is my view that travel decisions made by federal agencies should be based on these considerations.”

“In light of the recent extravagant spending within the Government Services Agency, and the subsequent House and Senate hearings, I respectfully ask you to investigate how many government agency conferences, from any agency throughout government, were held in Las Vegas since the Administration reversed its previous policy,” Paul asked Issa.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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