all of them katie

What New Comically Dumb Things Has GSA Been Caught Spending Loads Of Taxpayer Money On?

hot tub time machineWe all had a good larf and vomit when the GSA — which is supposed to be managing all our nation’s inventory — proved itself to be grotesquely spendy on stupid nonsense earlier this spring, spending almost a million dollars of our bread on things like commemorative coins and team-building bicycles (not to mention a hundred large just to plan the conference). But has the continuing probe found all manner of other atrocious money management decisions besides the Vegas hot-tub-athon? In a word: Jesus Christ.

Let us review what the GSA head got ousted for last time, in this bullshit excuse for a Vegas conference:

The planning of the three-day conference itself: $100,000
24 bicycles, for a team-building (and bike-building!) exercise: $75,000
Commemorative coins for each conference attendee: $6,325
Yearbooks for each conference attendee: $8,130
3 “semi-private in-room catered parties,” heh: $5,600
Commemorative canteens and carabiners: $2,781.50
Commemorative shirts: $3,749.40

We’ve taken out the food costs, because hey, people gotta eat. But “yearbooks,” you are preposterous.

So, what’s our update to this unseemliness? MORE UNSEEMLINESS, of course! Bring the blood and guts, McClatchy:

First it was a nearly $1 million conference in Las Vegas, featuring $7,000 worth of sushi, a mind reader and a clown.

Now it turns out that just weeks after that lavish affair two years ago, the federal General Services Administration spent $20,000 on drumsticks – the kind used for hitting drums – and nearly $30,000 for “time temperature picture frames” for an awards ceremony in nearby Virginia, according to its Office of Inspector General.

The ceremony, which appears to have involved two events at separate hotels, cost taxpayers $268,732, according to the initial findings, GSA Inspector General Brian Miller said in a letter Thursday to several members of Congress.

More than half of that money – $140,464 – went to a public relations, marketing and advertising firm for “coordination and logistical management,” Miller wrote.

Besides the 4,000 drumsticks, which were used for a drum band team-building exercise, the expenses included $42,000 for venue charges, a violinist, a guitarist, and food for 200 people; about $42,000 in travel costs for 49 attendees; $7,800 for 68 shadowbox frames; $8,600 for an “appearance” by someone called “Agent X;” and $10,000 for “Mission Possible Agent X management.”

First, what is up with these inane “team-building” exercises? You can’t just do the trust fall like every other middle-management schmo? Can’t do a little firewalk? Can’t — we don’t know — go “team build” by working on a team ladling up chili at an Obamaville soup kitchen?

Second: GSA folk, you should probably learn this: $8,600 for whatever “Agent X” is is not the market rate. Nor is $10,000 to his management. Unless he is the DJ at your rave, and he brought the drugs. Otherwise, you get you a nice corporate comic (it’s cool, they don’t work blue) for about $600 — let’s even call it $1,500 if you want to make a point of paying people nicely without being fucking ridiculous about it.


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Rebecca is the editor and publisher of Wonkette. She is the author of Commie Girl in the O.C., a collection of her OC Weekly columns, and the former editor of LA CityBeat. Go visit her Commie Girl Collective, and follow her on the Twitter!

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    1. worrytron

      It wasn't so much the cost of the audits as it was the team building exercise the auditors did before they started …

      I mean, how are you gonna pass up team sandcastle building!? YOU LITERALLY CANT

    1. BaldarTFlagass

      We just had our annual meeting of Restoration Project Managers from AF bases nationwide down here at Lackland AFB in San Antonio last month. They were a lot fancier before, usually down at the Riverwalk. This year they encouraged everyone to stay at base lodging (cheap but very crappy). The seminars were held in a community center on base right in the middle of the boot camp. Our "mixer" was held at the Godfather's Pizza on base located in the old NCO club, what a dump. I told the colonel that next year we should just get everyone a tent and a sleeping bag from Services and hold the meetings in a revival tent out in the parking lot. Thanks GSA!

        1. BaldarTFlagass

          They tried to lay some additional duties on me a few years ago and learned their lesson.

      1. b[redact]opple

        Thanks to Bathtub Guy, here at DoT they're talking about making us double-up in rental cars AND hotel rooms on TDY. It's too awful to think about, especially for those employees who have families they want to get away from.

    2. GeorgiaBurning

      The GSA got a long way to go before they can become a politically protected cash incinerator, but they're off to a good start

  1. Antispandex

    I just don't get it. If we give this money to contractors in Iraq, and they just "lose" it, nobody has a shit-fit like this. At least they are spreading the wealth throughout the economy…well, to mind readers and clowns and whatnot.

    1. pdiddycornchips

      Not only that, a simple rubber band and little engineering turns those drum sticks into crosses. Why do auditors hate the baby Jesus?

      1. Biel_ze_Bubba

        A little engineering – $15,000
        Consultants develop rubber band specification sheet – $10,000
        Putting rubber band contract out to bid – $20,000
        Bribe from third-highest bidder – ($10,000 credit)
        Last-minute addition of mil-spec requirement, per third-highest bidder – $5,000
        Purchase eighty times as many mil-spec rubber bands as actually needed – $95,000

  2. johnnyzhivago

    Having been to many far more elaborate and expensive corporate events, I can only say this seems to me like a government agency that really is trying to act as if it's in the private sector.

    1. HistoriCat

      Right – what's the problem? They keep going on about "running government more like a business" and then they complain when it happens!

    2. James Michael Curley

      I got an assignment to do a project with AT&T right around the time they were hemorrhaging from the MacCaw debacle. First day on the job was a Friday when the first thing on the calendar was the legal department's weekly meeting. The head lawyer/board member gets up and tells a tail of woe about excessive expenses and then announces that in the spirit of 'Starting Right Now' there will be no danish and donuts at the meeting.

      1. johnnyzhivago

        Speaking of AT&T, I remember an AT&T event in Dallas one evening  ( I think it was around some launch of their computer line – yes, AT&T once tried to get in the computer business) and there were 8 tables around this ballroom each with massive 3' diameter bowls will with shrimp piled 2-3' high, like the dead at Flanders.  I remember wondering how many shrimp gave their lives for that meeting alone.

        1. sullivanst

          Well, there was that whole System V thing.

          I know about AT&T efforts on the hardware side all too well – my dad worked pretty much his whole career for NCR. Upon realizing that their computing division was failing miserably, AT&T bought NCR in 1991 for the princely sum of $7 billion. Once the contractual year in which NCR jobs were protected, AT&T made the genius move of replacing NCR's management with the people who'd been running AT&Ts systems division into the ground. While AT&T owned the business, it ran at a loss every year (over $1.25 billion the first year alone). In 1995, they gave up and started preparing to resell the company – which they did in 1996, for about $2 billion from what I recall (wikipedia doesn't have that number).

          AT&T's computer geniuses – losing $7 billion in 5 years.

  3. ChillBill

    "First it was a nearly $1 million conference in Las Vegas, featuring $7,000 worth of sushi, a mind reader and a clown."

    Why hire a mind reader AND a clown?

    1. pdiddycornchips

      The clown make sense. Nothing builds team unity better than a clown playing the drums on a bicycle.

      1. actor212

        That's easy. It's always "Oh, god, please kill me now! Please speed up time so I can get home and strip down to my boxers and down that bottle of gin….mmmmm….gin….fucking people. I should never have left my machete in the car."

  4. SorosBot

    At least they're not wasting resources on arresting elderly comedians for going to a porno theater and doing what people are supposed to do there.

      1. pdiddycornchips

        Well thank god we have law enforcement personnel posted in porn theaters just to keep an eye on things.

      2. actor212

        That was the most amazing thing about this story: the most I've heard lately is about peep show booths in adult novelty shops. I mean, you got the internet or PPV tv. Why you need to go to a theater?

  5. Dashboard Buddha

    The mind reader picked up their vibes as they were looking through the yellow pages. Recognizing a gullible fuck when he saw one, he then sent them his card.

  6. mavenmaven

    OT: How long before the right blames liberals and Obama for the Denver shooting? And did anyone note how quickly the right dropped the Gitmo-to-Bulgarian-killer story when it was clear he was released by Bush?

    1. Texan_Bulldog

      Yeah, I'm waiting for the 'it's Obama's fault' meme to pop up on Fox.

      I'm having a hard time with the snark today–it's a very sad day.

      1. pdiddycornchips

        I know. Although I will note the change in trends among mass shooters lately. The Gabby Giffords shooter, the Danish guy and now this doofus. Shooters used to kill themselves. Not these guys. Please loony shooters, do yourself, your family and everyone else a favor and save a bullet for yourself.

        1. Jus_Wonderin

          Another thing that confounds me. Usually, when caught (redhanded) they claim they didn't do it. Okay, so you go to the trouble of a mass killing for some reason and then you don't own up to it? I just don't get it but then I have never planned a massacre.

      1. tiredalways

        Quote from one of the commentator – "There is a reliable source; that there was a road and a bridge in front of the very house which James Homles lives in, so he had help from the government."

  7. Dr_Zoidberg

    According to that pic, GSA bought me a tanorexic older man in a tub.

    Did they keep the receipt?

  8. actor212

    For an agency that spent an awful lot of time building camraderie, there sure was a lot of backstabbing and leaking to the press going on. They should have taken a page out of the Mob manual and just omerta'd people

  9. Whollyholeyholy

    What's most troubling me is the sneaking suspicion taxpayer money got that guy a hideous perm at John Edwards' salon.

  10. Billmatic

    I bet you Carlos Mencia would make an appearance at the conference in exchange for a hamburger and a juice box.

  11. ChernobylSoup

    These people need to learn how to graft. Considering how much purchasing power they have, they shouldn't be paying jack squat for food and entertainment.

  12. SorosBot

    Agent X is a Marvel character; he's a spinoff of Deadpool whose origin is too complicated to fully explain here, but he's basically a reanimated corpse with a copy of DP's powers and personality.

    How he got to our world and started performing for the GSA, I have no idea.

    1. BerkeleyBear

      I was hoping he was gonna be imitating that Adult Swim cartoon about the idiot billionaire Xander Crews who winds up running for President to thwart his nemesis Killface (and also manages to get sexually assaulted by his own sidekick/support squad member). Somehow that level of silly and stupid just seemed to fit.

      But I guess his name was "Awesome X" not "Agent X"

    1. charleshammondjr

      That's an insult to sailors my friend.

      At least sailors spend their own money and not the taxpayers.

      Fire them all I say.

  13. Goonemeritus

    I’m taping that picture to my dressing room mirror to remind myself never give in to cheesiness.

  14. SayItWithWookies

    Christ, you can get bicycles for $150 a pop at Target. If you're paying three grand a bike, you'd better be sponsoring a Tour de France team.

    1. Jus_Wonderin

      Well, we don't know for sure that they weren't the "bicycle built for two" tandem type. Those would be fun, I bet.

    2. actor212

      The $75,000 was for an entire day of team-building seminars and training and included the 24 bikes, which were supposed to be donated to charity.

      Here's the thing: the vendor asked $125,000. The GSA said no, and then said $75,000 was the max they were allowed to spend.

      "OK!," said the vendor (who was probably figuring he'd get $2500, maybe $10,000). And by the way, the vendor kept the bikes and got to donate them to whomever himself.

      1. SayItWithWookies

        Oh, sure — be a smartypants and read the article. On the other hand, why wouldn't the employees — or at least the GSA — be able to keep the bikes if they're the ones who paid for them?

        1. actor212

          Well, the plan was to donate the bikes to charity after the build, but there's some government regulation…written up by the GSA ironically…that says government donations have to go through some lengthy review process and justification for not auctioning them, yadayadayada.

    3. ProgressiveInga

      Totally not defending the spendy GSA-ers, but $3K wouldn't buy you a wheel set on a bike at the Tour de France. May buy you some HGH, tho.

      1. actor212


        Seriously, they trotted out a consumer bike last year at the Tour and gave it to some of the roleurs to ride as an advertising gimmick.

          1. actor212

            Rouleurs are the jacks of all trades. They can domestique, to be sure, but they're also the guys the captain sends to the front of the pack to hammer a pace out (think Jens Voigt) or into a break to set up a ladder to a stage win.

  15. jakegittes

    I'm just glad that none of this is preventing the military from spending millions on sponsoring NASCAR, bass fishing, the NFL, the NBA, etc., etc., etc. etc.

    Because you know a perpetually shitty economy is just not enough to drive all of the poors and mud people into the "volunteer" armed forces.

      1. Biel_ze_Bubba

        Just priced my 1975 Raleigh on eBay … it's worth exactly what I paid for it. That's what I call holding its value.

  16. weejee

    Why not just put the attendees into different fireteams? However, instead of using pussy paint ball gunz give the team leader & rifleman M4s, the grenadier an M4 with a grenade launcher, the largest team member a pig (or whatever the M60 has evolved to). Then have the fireteams try to do what fireteams really, really do. The survivors will have clearly learned teamwork, and the GSA would have helped cut all that severely overheady payroll – yea!!!

    1. BerkeleyBear

      I'd laugh, but that's basically part of the plot of the book "Good Omens" (which is awesome) and at least one horror movie. Corporate shits show up thinking they are playing paintball, wind up with real (if slightly less heavy duty) weapons, and just go for it.

  17. Beowoof

    I understand that only republicans are allowed to blow taxpayer money like this. See Department of Defense to support my view.

  18. SoBeach

    Yeah, spending $268,732 like that is really wasteful.

    We could have bought 12 seconds worth of national defense for that. Literally.

  19. C_R_Eature

    You know, if the GSA would just up and invade North Waziristan and contract it all out to Xe, they could spend truly obscene amounts of money on any ridiculous thing they wanted to. House and Senate Republicans would go to the mat for them, too since any reduction in Defense Spending kills our Freedom and Sequestration is The Work Of The Devil.

    1. pdiddycornchips

      So true. All that sweet, sweet cash, no accountability and they also look the other way on the occasional gang rape. Military contractors are awesome!

  20. MissTaken

    One of my coworkers went to Vegas with his buddies for a bachelor party and rented a cabana for the day (I think it was at MGM Grand, but I'm not sure). They got drunk and were offering drinks to numerous girls throughout the day, and received numerous blow jobs in return. They didn't know the same girls were ordering bottles of Grey Goose by the truckload.

    The bill for 4 guys came to $16,000. But hey, they at least got bj's. I sure hope the GSA got one helluva a bj from Agent X.

    1. actor212

      A blow job for a bottle of Grey Goose?

      Hm. Maybe a double header would be worth a bottle of vodka. And I'd want video evidence to show my friends.

  21. Poindexter718

    I don't get it. These anti-government zealots are forever whenging about how much better the private sector can do things than the gubmint but then when the gubmint is caught emulating the dum-bass team building exercise that are prominent feature of every middle management rubber chicken boondoggle in corporate america, it somehow ain't right.
    How, I ask you, can the GSA optimize performance and achieve synergistic organizational rhythms if all the employees are marching to different drummers?

    1. SorosBot

      And then some government offices refuse to provide basic perks for employees; for example the City of Philadelphia, which my mom just recently retired from, doesn't provide coffee in their offices. Coffee, a basic perk of any office. But someone thinks that would be a waste of taxpayer money.

      1. Poindexter718

        I'm of two minds on that one: Coffee obviously boosts productivity. On the other hand … government coffee?

      2. HistoriCat

        Apparently there are large engineering firms (I'm talking worldwide operations) which don't provide coffee – I couldn't believe it when I heard it.

  22. fawkedifiknow

    This would be cool with the GOP if only they had funneled the money through Swiss bank accounts and spent it in the Cayman's on team building by fancy horse riding, all set up by out sourced guys from India, hired at a tenth of the going rate for similar workers in the USA.

  23. JackDempsey1

    $20000 on drumsticks

    At that price, they could have purchased an distributed 4000 Louisville sluggers (wholesale cost), which might have been more useful for on-the-job activities.

    1. Generation[redacted]

      The Louisville Slugger is great for giving a pep talk on teamwork at dinner parties!

  24. 12X34X

    Know what we did for team building in my office? We created a cookbook of our favorite recipes from around the world. Then we used it for fundraising and fed 13 needy families Thanksgiving and Xmas dinners. THAT'S team building.
    I wonder how many families we could have fed if we'd had the $20 grand they spent on drumsticks. It is staggering.

    1. Isyaignert

      Gawd luv ya!! At my last job, we'd sponsor a couple of local families at Christmas and raised $40K for the local food bank. Not too bad for a company with only 50 employees. It really did foster relationships and team building, in addition to the good karma points everyone earned.

  25. An_Outhouse

    At least they didn't spend $1,500,000,000 on an Olympic event in a shit hole desert state where no one lives.

      1. Isyaignert

        I remember trying to get a cocktail at the SLC airport back in the 1980s. The Morons made it a major inconvenience that was designed to punish imbibers who were passing through on their way to civilization.

        1. Biel_ze_Bubba

          Was that the deal where you got the drink without the booze, then joined a "club" for an hour, and as a member you were entitled to buy your own little airline bottle of booze, which you then had to mix into the drink yourself? That whole rigamarole was extremely mormonic.

          1. Isyaignert

            I believe that's the way it was. I just remember feeling like I was in an unfriendly, muffed-up place and couldn't wait to leave Utah. I wonder if it's still like that. Probably.

          2. Biel_ze_Bubba

            We were in a group, so instead of feeling the repression, we just said "what a bunch of fucking nuts!" and had a good laff.

          3. James Michael Curley

            That was the rules in a few 'dry' counties Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and other fly-over states and they were predominated by non-Mormon religious dictates. Bergen County NJ, for the reason of 'Sunday is the Lord's Day of Rest' thinking still does not allow stores to be open on Sunday.

  26. Blueb4sunrise

    Chance of snark today: Low. Widely scattered snark sprinkles as high pressure builds. Some areas of the country will receive no snark at all.

    1. Jus_Wonderin

      Well, at least if I "jump into the high speed action" of HughesNet…I'd get a good connection with no Snark clouds to block the signal.

  27. Fraudulently_Joe

    Tom Tomorrow, today:

    I wrote this cartoon after the Gabby Giffords shooting in January of 2011. It remains tragically relevant.

    Personally, I'm planning to repost this comic every time something like this happens. (and God knows there are going to be plenty more, since as TT so accurately predicted, the gun control movement really has lost the policy debate.

  28. Terry

    These GSA shindigs are resulting in government employees being restricted from attending conferences, even professional meetings where research results are presented.

  29. OneYieldRegular

    Wait, a guitarist, a violinist, and 2,000 amateur drummers? Sounds like a North Korean rock band.

  30. Jus_Wonderin

    While we are waiting for the Snark to take off, has anyone read "The Rude Pundit"s 7/17/2012 rant about Rush? Hilarious.

  31. Designer_Rants

    Of the too-many times I've seen that photo of the guy in the tub, I just now noticed he's wearing a.. necklace? That's the most offensive part of this whole story.

  32. Biff

    More than half of that money – $140,464 – went to a public relations, marketing and advertising firm for “coordination and logistical management,” Miller wrote.


  33. ttommyunger

    Darth Cheney is reading about this expose' and chuckling to himself, muttering: "Pikers".

  34. bibliotequetress

    True story: Two years ago my agency requested a new office for my branch so that we could a)have a waiting area so people who walked in to be assisted wouldn't have to, ya know, just stand around between our desks, and b) so we could have a small room where we could take clients to discuss PRIVATE matters– how their divorce effects their benefits, the part of the disability questionnaire when we ask if they can still get an erection, etc. As it stood, we handled all those things in front of an audience of whoever the hell happened to be in the office at that moment.
    We did not want MORE space, were willing to take less, were willing to pay a little more than currently, just needed a different layout. So we went to GSA, they showed our local powers-that-be a few places, local PTBs approved two of them– both smaller than our current location– and GSA then shot us down. Why? Why would they not let us have a vacant office they themselves had shown us? That would be because they decided GSA could get a more money by renting to a different agency. And what happened to that vacant office space. Well, the vacant office which is actually in the same building where I work is… yes! STILL vacant! Yay GSA! You could have gotten more rent from us for the past two years and let us move in here but you didn't! Cheers on that fiscal planning front!
    In fairness, one of my co-workers from the agency where I used to work is at GSA now. She's charming, intelligent, a very hard worker, and also thinks GSA sucks. Go, team!

  35. outragedcitizen

    Ok, first, I am going to be thinking about this next April 15th when I am frantically trying to finish my taxes on time.

    Second, with the huge amount of waste money involved, I know it seems strange to focus on this one item, but 4,000 drumsticks for 200 people? Could this be proof that there are aliens on Earth… aliens with 20 arms each, all apparently working for GSA?

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