WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of senators wants to know whether the $823,000 spent on the lavish General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas is a rare exception or part of a "culture of excess."
The 2010 conference featured a mind reader as well as $44 taxpayer-funded breakfasts and $95 dinners, according to the GSA inspector general's report.
Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Tom Carper, D-Del., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., are pushing legislation that would make all agencies post their conference spending online and take a 20 percent cut in their conference budgets.
"Right now we spend $500 million a year on conferences," Coburn said.
In the wake of the scandal, GSA has already cancelled 35 upcoming conferences. And according to a new Federal News Radio poll, 58 percent of bureaucrats polled this month say their agencies are cutting back on conferences.
Coburn wondered if most of the events are even needed.
"Every federal agency has videoconferencing available," he noted. "And yet...we spend $15 billion on travel -- and all of this is outside of the military."
In seven recent years, the Department of Justice spent $312 million on conferences. One featured $4 meatballs and $16 breakfast muffins.
The Agriculture Department increased its conference spending by 191 percent in just six years. Some of the gatherings have been held at spa resorts in Hawaii.
"We're spending money we don't have on things we don't need," Coburn charged.
Coburn's office releases a report every year exposing 100 examples of wasteful government spending. But he said there's so much more government waste than just conference spending.
"We just put the top hundred out of thousands," he said. "In other words, we could publish a thousand stupid things that the federal government does a year, easy. And we'd still have thousands left to do."