GSA Parties Need More Tax Dollars
Published April 09, 2012 | On the Record | On the Record
Special Guests: Rep. Darrell Issa
This is a rush transcript from “On the Record,” April 9, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, the hits keep coming. Shocking new video shows the GSA mocking you, the taxpayer!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I walk around to make sure everybody else is working so I don’t have to do anything. I think my role is make it as challenging an environment for the others as I possibly can. It only makes them a better employee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: So did you like the clown? I hope so because you paid for it! That’s right, new videos out today showing GSA workers clowning around on the company dime. That’s your dime. But if you don’t like clowns, don’t worry, there’s something for everyone. How about a dancing Gumby?
OK, well, guess what? They are laughing at you. These new videos are the latest “caught on camera” moments highlighting the GSA’s colossal waste of taxpayer money, more than $800,000 of your money spent on a lavish Vegas convention — a party!
We spoke with House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa earlier tonight.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.
REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF., HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIR: Well, nice to hear your voice, Greta. Hopefully, you’re enjoying your time with less of us in town.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it is quiet, or at least sort of quiet but not totally quiet. And I see that already, you’ve got plans for Monday, April 16th, that you’re announcing a hearing on GSA. And I’m curious whether any of your list of witnesses — and I’ve got the list here — will turn — will show up.
ISSA: Well, we think all the witnesses will show up. Our invitation is not about the one episode which has been highly covered but about the problems at GSA that go back to the previous administration. As you know, Louetta — sorry — Lurita Doan, in fact, was working very hard, trying to change the culture at GSA and would probably be the first to say that it’s hard to change a culture of an organization that hasn’t been held responsible.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you going to look at yourselves, at Congress? Because, you know, the fact is, I look at these and I realize that these — these run-up prices for these lavish parties fall under two administrations, fall under two different parties running Congress with power of oversight.
You know, and it’s a bit troubling, you know, that we see over and over again, whether it’s the lawyers downloading the porn at the SEC or the conflict of interest over at the Department of Interior or this or something else, is that, you know, Congress’s job is to do the oversight. And we only — you know, Congress sort of steps in and has hearings after the fact, rather than to prevent it.
ISSA: Well, you’re exactly right that there needs to be a beefing up in Congress of the kind of proactive oversight that needs to happen. You know, I don’t want to say that we’re undermanned, but to give you an example, there are 80 people on my staff, the largest majority staff in the Congress, and that’s a budget of a couple million dollars.
The IGs alone represent 2,000 — or sorry, 12,000 people and $2 billion. So it’s obviously a big job. We’re never going to equal what the inspector generals do for the government, but we need to be able to look at their information much quicker, digest it, and make changes.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Brian D. Miller is the inspector general of the GSA, who is on your list, the United States General Services Administration. What are you going to ask him?
ISSA: Well, among other things, we’re going to ask him, quite, frankly, what he thought he should have been able to do when 11 months ago, he informed the administration — not just the GSA administrator but also the president’s liaison in that room, you know, of what was going on. And as the months went by, as he continued to work on a final report, was he surprised that the administration was essentially ignoring this kind of a scandal?
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess, you know, my thought is that — and you know, I’m — I’m pretty revved up about this because I think it’s appalling, when I think of what $820,000, $840,000 could do for so many important projects in the government or so many needs, whether it’s veterans learning to work with amputated arms or whatever it is, and I see this, you know, so I’m pretty revved up about it.
But I don’t — 11 months? You see $800,000-some being spent on a lavish party, and it takes you 11 months to figure out that there’s a problem? I’d see that and I’d think, you know — you know — you know, this — what is someone drinking? How can this happen? It wouldn’t take me 11 months. I hope it wouldn’t even take me 11 minutes!
ISSA: Well, that’s exactly right. You would have thought that the administrator would have been doing everything to correct this, so by the time that final report came out 11 months later, she would be able to say, Yes, we understand, but we fixed it.
You know, this is one of the areas, Greta, that’s so irritating is this administration wants to say they took quick action, but in fact, they’ve known about it for 11 months and took no action until the press was about to get wind of it.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, before that, though, in 2008, with a Democratic Congress who should have been providing oversight and a Republican White House, it was $655,000 on a lavish party. Two years earlier, it was $323,000.
I realize that it’s much less money as the years go back, but what in the world were we spending even a dime on lavish parties for government, for civil servants, people who work for the government, when we’ve got high unemployment, people don’t have jobs, don’t have job security? What in the world are we spending even a dime on this stuff!
ISSA: Well, Greta, you’re exactly right on one of the most important things. It was a trend. There was a direction. There was a cultural shift that was making this more and more, if you will, easy to do.
So by the time it came to the $800,000 party, the fact is, the damage had been going on for a period of time unchecked. And you make the most important point, which is Congress has to be proactive. We have to see these trends coming. We have to have more direct relations with the IGs and with all the other parts of government. In other words, we need the transparency so we can be part of the solution whether an administration is willing to take action or not.
VAN SUSTEREN: How do we get that, though? How — how do the American people get that? You know, the — you know, we watch Congress fight, you know, over the budget. And one side wants taxes raised. Another side doesn’t want taxes raised. And we look at all the waste and fraud and we think to ourselves as taxpayers, Maybe you ought to start doing your oversight and stop wasting stuff. Maybe we don’t need as much money as you need.
You know, it’s — the American people are just sitting there, watching you guys, you — and I appreciate you coming here, but you know, a lot of it, you know, it’s really — you know, the problem is, you know, you members of Congress and the White House are part of the problem, a big part of it!
ISSA: Well, you know, failure to do your job is certainly something that Congress should be held accountable for because we have failed to do our job of keeping after this ever-growing bureaucracy, which is our responsibility. We shouldn’t fund and then forget.
But Senator Coburn and myself have both been working on modernization, what we call in the House the Data Act, getting the kind of reporting that would not only allow to us look better into government but allow the public to see it.
These kinds of expenses should be transparent to the public. Everyone in America should be able to know what happened in Las Vegas, how many people were there and how much money was spent. You have a right to know. We have a need to know. Can we get both of those in a way in which, essentially, like a Google search, you’d be able to find out?
That’s what the Data Act tries to do. That’s what Senator Coburn over in the Senate has been working on for years. We think the time has come to order that, to make the administration more transparent not because of this president but because of every president.
VAN SUSTEREN: I shudder to think how many other organizations — how many other parts of the government are having these parties. But the other thing, I can’t — you know, I can’t possibly escape the irony. I have quoted Senator Tom Coburn many times about the fact that he commissioned a study about waste and fraud in the government, and it’s a study about a foot tall on my desk and it’s been there for months.
And who did he commission to do the waste and fraud? The ones that are out partying in Vegas. I mean, it’s just, you know — you can’t make this stuff up. I mean, it’s just so appalling. And I know — question that every American has is, how many other agencies of the government are having parties? Do you have any other idea about this?
ISSA: Well, I’ll give you a good example. Back in — when we were last in the majority back in 2005 and ’06, as a subcommittee chairman, I was working on Mineral Management Service, the famous MMS, and the parties they were having paid for by the oil and — companies that did business with the government in violation of all the laws. And they, in fact, told us they that thought it was necessary, they needed to have this close working relationship with those they oversaw.
Fast forward four years, the gulf is filled with oil, and once again, you have too close a relationship between the regulators and the regulated. So this isn’t the only time there’s been lavish parties. It isn’t the only time that government has sort of thought it was their right and entitlement.
The question is, when will Congress start putting its assets into making sure that we have transparency? And that’s going to be, if you will, my signature of my chairmanship is, can I get this and the next administration to change their ways and really become transparent, not just give it lip service but provide the real on-line capability not just for my committee but for CREW, groups on the left and right who want to know about waste in government.
The only way they’re going to get that access is if we change how you access government records, including things like this kind of spending.
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2012 by Donna Calvin
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