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In brief: IRS spent $50 million on conferences

WASHINGTON – A government watchdog has found that the Internal Revenue Service spent about $50 million to hold at least 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012, a House committee said Sunday.

In one example, $4 million was spent for an August 2010 gathering in Anaheim, Calif., for which the agency did not negotiate lower room rates, even though that is standard government practice, according to a statement by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Instead, some of the 2,600 attendees received benefits, including baseball tickets and stays in suites that normally cost $1,500 to $3,500 per night. In addition, 15 outside speakers were paid a total of $135,000 in fees, with one paid $17,000 to talk about “leadership through art,” the House committee said.

The Treasury Department released a statement Sunday saying the administration has taken “aggressive and dramatic action to reduce conference spending.”

IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said Sunday that spending on large conferences fell from $37.6 million in the 2010 budget year to $4.9 million in 2012.

Holder under fire for leak investigation

WASHINGTON – Republicans sharply criticized Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday for his handling of an investigation into a possible leak of classified information to a Fox News reporter, suggesting that Holder lied to Congress last month in testifying that he was unaware of any potential prosecutions of journalists.

Republican critics said Holder was aware of a search warrant in 2010 for emails from Fox News’ James Rosen that called him a possible co-conspirator in the investigation and a risk to flee the country. Those terms suggested that Rosen would be prosecuted, Republicans said, though he has not been.

The Justice Department has said the decision to seek the search warrant was vetted at the highest levels of the department and that Holder was involved in the discussions.

“It would be kind to say he misled Congress,” Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It would be less kind and more accurate to say that would rise to be a lie by most people’s standards, by the American people’s standards.”

He stopped short of saying Holder committed perjury. “But certainly it’s hard to have confidence in what this attorney general says, or his people say, when so often it turns out not to be true,” Issa said.


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