Archives for April 2012

VIDEO: Fox News Live – Demanding an end to lavish government spending

Dan Epstein joins Harris Faulkner on Fox News Live to discuss the GSA spending scandal and the steps Cause of Action is taking to hold the administration accountable for wasteful spending.


Dan Epstein on Is GSA Just the Tip of the Iceberg?

Is GSA Just the Tip of the Iceberg?

By Dan Epstein

This week’s hearings on the General Services Administration (GSA) spending scandal may be ruffling some feathers, but regardless of how the event is painted by either side, the truth is that we have yet another case of severe tax-dollar waste within an administration, who, time after time, has lauded transparency and accountability. This particular GSA atrocity was concealed for over a year. Can we help but wonder about similar instances of excess that fly under the OIG radar at other agencies?

This is why Cause of Action wrote letters to 32 federal agency offices demanding information on their spending on nonessential items that offer no value to taxpayers. Among last week’s disclosures, it was revealed that GSA spent $6,325 on commemorative coins in velvet boxes for employees at the controversial Las Vegas conference. Excessive spending on trinkets like these is not only frivolous but deceptive, prompting Cause of Action to send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to each of 32 agencies and their Offices of Inspector General calling for documentation of all spending on commemorative awards such as coins and keychains.

Jeff Neely, the Regional Commissioner of Region 9 of the GSA, refused to testify before Monday’s House Oversight Committee hearing. In response to several questions from Chairman Darrell Issa, Neely claimed, “Mr. Chairman, on the advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer based upon my 5th amendment constitutional privilege.” Inspector General Brian D. Miller claimed at the April 16, 2012 hearing that the excess spending at Region 9 was widespread. IG Miller claimed there are ongoing investigations “including all sorts of improprieties including bribes and possibly kickbacks.” IG Miller claimed GSA employees were afraid of retaliation; according to Miller, Jeff Neely “squashed” agency whistleblowers “like a bug” yet received a performance bonus for his work.

If our tax dollars are being used to purchase excessive rewards for gov

ernment employees while taxpayers themselves are struggling with mortgage payments, we want to uncover those facts.

As taxpayers, our rightful expectation is that the government is a responsible steward of our well-earned dollars and that our taxes are put toward projects that hold value for American citizens. If there are hidden line items within federal agency budgets that allocate dollars toward objects of no worth to taxpayers, Cause of Action intends to find out through FOIA, especially if this culture of noncompliance suppresses the rights of federal employees to expose fraud.

The Obama administration itself claims that FOIA is “an integral part of creating an open and transparent government,” and Cause of Action is no stranger to FOIA’s intricacies. Last fall, Cause of Action filed a FOIA request into the issue of administrative earmarks. When the Office of Management and Budget failed to present the requested information, Cause of Action took the White House to court.

The GSA case shows that tax-dollar waste comes with serious consequences. Thus far, eight GSA employees have faced serious discipline, been fired, or chosen to resign. Flippant spending is not to be taken lightly.

Acting GSA chief Dan Tangherlini has said that the GSA is now conducting an evaluation of its conferences, reviewing how dollars are used, and pinpointing methods for using resources more efficiently. But shouldn’t this be common practice for a federal agency? If GSA spent over $800,000 with practically no accountability, who’s to say that such extravagance isn’t pervasive below the surface of other federal entities?

This week, Cause of Action sent both a FOIA request for all records concerning the Office of Government Ethics’ (OGE) investigations into excessive spending on commemorative items by federal agencies as well as an investigation by the OGE into such excessive spending.

It should not take a scandal to motivate a department to streamline its spending practices, and it is disappointing that this administration needs constant reminding of its obligation to be transparent with taxpayers.

Our country is sitting under a government that can’t balance a budget and within an economy that’s facing a recession. If there was ever a time to reveal wasteful government spending and demand that this administration live up to its claims to transparency, it is now.


Citing CoA Findings, Rep. Kline Calls for Investigation into NLRB Communications on Boeing

Citing emails uncovered by Cause of Action through FOIA, on Friday, April 13, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) sent a letter to David Berry, the Inspector General at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requesting an investigation into Acting Counsel Lafe Solomon at the NLRB for potential ex parte communications.  Rep. Kline calls for the IG to look into communications between Lafe Sol

omon and then-Chairman Wilma Liebman concerning the Board’s case against Boeing, which have been previously brought to light by Cause of Action.

Read Rep. Kline’s letter here.

See related items from Cause of Action here.


Washington Post: How much are other agencies spending on award coins? A nonpartisan group wants to know

How much are other agencies spending on award coins? A nonpartisan group wants to know

Cause of Action, a nonpartisan government accountability group, has asked 28 federal agencies’ inspectors general offices for information on award coins issued to federal employees.  The group has filed a Freedom of Information Act request in response to news that the Pacific Rim region of the General Services Administration spent $6,325 on award coins for employees, given out during a Las Vegas training conference in 2010. “We are sending these letters because if there are more instances of this type of wasteful spending, we intend to expose it,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of the organization.”

Read the full story here.

Government Executive: GSA spending spree prompts greater scrutiny of other agencies

GSA spending spree prompts greater scrutiny of other agencies

Read the full story here.

“As the General Services Administration swiftly becomes the face of wasteful government spending, other federal agencies soon will have to take a closer look at their own checkbooks. The nonpartisan government accountability watchdog group Cause of Action filed Freedom of Information Act requests Wednesday to 28 federal agencies and their inspectors general in an effort to uncover more instances of unchecked federal spending between January 2009 and the present, The Hillreported. The requests ask for a reply within 20 business days, and seek to uncover uses of taxpayer dollars similar to the $6,325 the General Services Administration spent on coins commemorating a regional branch’s lavish 2010 Las Vegas conference. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is planning an April 19 hearing to discuss the conference spending. The Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Education and State departments are some of the agencies for which Cause of Action is seeking spending records. “Our economy is facing a recession, our government can’t pass a budget, and federal agencies are choosing to spend taxpayer dollars on trinkets for their employees or third parties,” Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein told The Hill. “This is yet another example of frivolous and wasteful government spending that deserves to be exposed.””

Dan Epstein Talks with G. Gordon Liddy About GSA Spending & Commemorative Items

Dan E How to win back your ex

pstein – G Gordon Liddy – April 11, 2012

Dan Epstein talks about GSA’s spending problem and CoA’s 32 FOIA requests in response.


NLRB’s Lafe Solomon Admits to Ex Parte Communications

Image source: Flickr user NABET-CWA

In November, Cause of Action sent a request for investigation to the National Labor Relations Board regarding improper communications between former Member and Chairman Wilma Liebman and Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon. We have just received an update from the NLRB to a FOIA request we sent on this matter, and what we were told is worth noting.

In communications that were delivered to us via FOIA production, Cause of Action found through redacted emails that Solomon and Liebman were communicating about a press strategy regarding the case that the NLRB brought against Boeing. As Cause of Action has previously pointed out, the NLRB’s own ex parte rules prohibit communications with outside, interested persons. In this case, Liebman and Solomon should have had no communications about the Boeing case, as Solomon was the acting counsel on the case. Doing so in regard to a press inquiry is a clear violation of these rules.

In a letter from

Lafe Solomon to CoA dated April 9, 2012, the NLRB states that, “The previously redacted portions of these documents, in fact, demonstrate that Agency's internal deliberations were structured to specifically respond to the two questions posed by the CNN producer.”

Solomon clearly acknowledges what we found in the emails: That he and Wilma Liebman were engaged in communications about press strategy concerning the Boeing case. With Solomon acting as the General Counsel, will we ever see an investigation into this most recent example of the NLRB acting in its own interests, and even violating rules?  Or will this Board continue to behave as if it has no accountability?

Some of the redacted emails we received via FOIA to the NLRB: