Washington Secrets

Furloughs? IRS sends staff to Vegas for union training

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

Despite serious concerns that the sequester will force the Internal Revenue Service to furlough key workers five to seven days, the tax collector is paying for staffers to attend union training sessions in Las Vegas and New Orleans, according to documents obtained by a House committee.

The oversight subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee said the papers showed that the IRS has approved 20.5 hours of official time for IRS employees to attend training sessions with the National Treasury Employees Union at five conferences between March and May. One training convention takes place at the Flamingo Casino on the Vegas Strip, known for its "Margaritaville Casino."

Also, according to Oversight Chairman Rep. Charles Boustany, while the union said it would pay travel costs, IRS documents show that staffers were told to charge the "Citibank Government Travel Charge Card."

In a letter to Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, Boustany noted the contradiction of the IRS fretting about furloughing workers while sending others to Las Vegas and New Orleans for union conferences. He quoted union President Colleen Kelly's recent claim that the furloughs will hurt "middle class" IRS workers and "their ability to pay their bills and serve the public."

Wrote the Louisiana congressman, "While the IRS considers furloughing employees from their official duties, I am disappointed to learn that agency employees are attending union conferences in New Orleans, Louisiana, Las Vegas, Nevada and other locations, all while on official federal time." (See the complete letter embedded below this story.)

He noted that federal workers are allowed limited union activity on union time, "however IRS employees leaving their official duties to attend union training in Las Vegas on the taxpayer's dime -- while other employees are being furloughed -- seems questionable at best."

The letter requested more information from IRS for Boustany's probe of the spending.

Irs Union Activity

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