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February 08, 2006

Lobbying Reform Should Be Done Carefully

Feb 8, 2006
by Tim Chapman,Townhall.com

Your tax dollars, hard at work

On Tuesday, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management Tom Coburn (R-OK) held a hearing that exposed wasteful federal spending at the agency level. Coburn sent a letter to every federal agency requesting details as to how much money those agencies spent on conferences.

The results were shocking.

In his opening statement, Coburn revealed that since 2000, federal agencies have spent more than $1.4 billion underwriting and sending federal employees to conferences (many of which are located in lavish tropical destinations). Even more shocking, noted Coburn, was that “this increase occurred during a challenging time for out country.” It is also ironic that these costs are increasing at the same time that telecommunication technologies are getting more and more reliable reducing the need for travel.

Testifying before Coburn’s subcommittee was a former Department of Health and Human Services staffer Scott Evertz, who bravely played the role of whistle blower. Evertz told the subcommittee that during his tenure at HHS, he had “witnessed an attitude of entitlement concerning international travel by many bureaucrats and downright arrogance when senior officials attempted to curtail – or even question – the travel of some individuals.”

Evertz relayed the story of a 2004 Bangkok International AIDS conference, which when all was said and done was derided by experts in the field as “irrelevant.” That “irrelevant” conference cost nearly $17 million. But the ancillary cost for those whose life mission is helping people with AIDS was much higher, noted Evertz, “For the cost of this single conference, up to 1,500 individuals living with HIV with access to no life saving treatment could have been treated for an entire year.”

Coburn says his purpose in holding the hearings is to hold agencies accountable and to prevent future wasteful spending. Without accountability, “We deprive Americans of the checks and balances to which they are entitled,” said the doctor from Oklahoma.

By the looks of it, accountability is certainly needed, and at this rate, Americans may not be able to afford to wait.

Click on title for complete article as this is just an excerpt on lobbying reform.

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