A former IRS commissioner during the Bush administration on Saturday called the $49 million the agency spent on lavish employee conferences “disgraceful.”
“I can’t imagine what they were thinking,” Mark Everson, who served under President George W. Bush, told Jeanine Pirro on Fox News. “All of these things really undermine the agency and, frankly, people’s faith in government.”
A report by the Treasury Department’s inspector general disclosed this week that the Internal Revenue Service spent $49 million on 225 employee conferences over three years — including an August 2010 session in Anaheim, Calif., for about 2,600 workers that cost $4.1 million.
Employees watched two training videos at the conference starring division employees that cost at least $60,000 to produce. One of the videos parodied the "Star Trek" TV show.
A keynote speaker was a painter who received $17,000 to produce portraits of Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, Bono, President Abraham Lincoln, and the Statue of Liberty.
In addition, one IRS official stayed five nights in a hotel room that regularly costs $3,500 a night, while another spent four nights in a room that regularly costs $1,499 a night, the audit showed.
The agency also spent more than $30,000 for 45 IRS employees who live in the Anaheim area to stay at the three hotels contracted for the conference.
The IRS also remains under fire for targeting tea party, conservative and religious groups for extra scrutiny of their applications for tax-exempt status. Several representatives of such organizations testified to Congress this week about the special inquiries they received from the agency.
Everson, who served as commissioner from 2003 to 2007, told Pirro about a deputy under him who oversaw the section of the agency that is under fire for the wasteful spending.
“He brought a turkey sandwich to lunch every day in a brown paper sack,” Everson said. “If somebody had said, ‘We want to spend $4 million and go to Anaheim for a week,’ he would’ve thrown them out of his office.
“I don’t understand this at all,” he added. “I really don’t.”
Everson said he opposed a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS, favoring instead a bipartisan congressional committee similar to the one appointed to probe the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration.
“The American people are disturbed enough that we need to get to the bottom of this in a bipartisan manner,” he said. “I’m also concerned that the tax-writing committees are all going to have their work stop — and tax reform, which is so essential, will take second place to this. We need to investigate it thoroughly.”
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