The U.S. Internal Revenue Service spent about $50 million on 220 conferences for employees from 2010 to 2012, according to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The cost of the agency's conferences was released today by the committee, which is holding a hearing on the subject June 6. In one case, the IRS spent $4 million for an Anaheim, California, conference in 2010, where some stayed in rooms costing $1,500 to $3,500 a night and $135,000 was paid to outside speakers, including $17,000 for a lecture on "leadership through art."
Representative Darrell Issa, the Republican who leads the committee, said the agency didn't negotiate on the cost of hotel rooms, instead receiving perks such as game tickets or free drinks, which he called kickbacks.
"The culture of the federal workforce is one where I don't think you can underestimate that if you don't keep reminding the voters but also the federal workers that we're watching, this will happen again," Issa said on CNN's "State of the Union" today.
The cost of conferences is drawing fresh scrutiny to the IRS, which is already facing political pressure since revealing that it gave heightened attention to Tea Party groups that were applying for tax-exempt status. The agency is facing inquiries from six congressional committees and a criminal probe by the Justice Department concerning its review of potential tax-exempt groups.