The PJ Tatler

GOP Amendment Would Cap Conference Spending

A group of Republican senators have filed an amendment to the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012, currently pending on the Senate floor, that would limit conference spending for government agencies.

The amendment is sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).

It would cap the amount that can be spent on a single conference at $500,000, and require travel spending to be 80 percent of the amount spent in 2010.

Overseas conference attendance would be limited to 50 federal employees stationed in the U.S., unless the State Department deems that an exception is in the national interest.

“The excessive, gluttonous spending of taxpayer dollars by GSA officials to dole out luxurious trips and other benefits is outrageous, if not potentially criminal. This amendment would force agencies to account for the dollars they spend on conferences and justify their participation at these events,” Toomey said. “The federal government spent more than $2 billion on conferences from 2000 to 2006 – it’s time for agencies to realize they must answer to the American people as to how they spend taxpayer dollars.”

Agencies would also be required to post a quarterly report on each conference for which the agency paid travel expenses, including total cost, location, justification of participation, and an explanation as to why the conference was more cost effective than a teleconference. Agencies would also be required to post detailed information on their websites on any presentation made by any employee of that agency at a conference, including speeches, visual exhibits and videos.

The amendment comes after a round of Hill hearings last week showcased the pricey 2010 GSA regional conference in Las Vegas.