A small vote against big spending

Sometimes it’s the little things Congress does that tell the biggest stories. So it is with a recent 82-14 vote in the Senate for a proposal to prohibit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from using federal tax dollars to pay for conferences and banquets hosted by the agency or attended by its employees. What sparked this vote was news that NOAA spent $46,000 in federal funds to wine and dine government regulators and their favored scientists and commercial fishermen. The event was a meeting of the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a NOAA-backed nonprofit tasked with helping the Chesapeake Bay recover its oyster population. Evidently, a sumptuous evening of hors d’oeuvre, martinis, crab and filet mignon is essential to completing the task.

But one Senate vote inspired by media reports of a single wasteful event doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story of how federal bureaucrats have for years spent billions of tax dollars traveling to official meetings at far-flung locations that just happen to be choice vacation spots. Even now, a NOAA Fishery Management Council is scheduled to meet in August at the swank Carambola Beach Resort & Golf Club on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Other NOAA panels met in Hawaii in January 2005 and Florida in February 2006.

Incredibly, NOAA is far from the worst offender. An investigation last year by the federal financial management subcommittee then-chaired by Sen. Tom Coburn estimated that federal agencies have spent more than $2 billion on meetings and travel just since 2000. And the rate of increase in this spending is spiraling upward: By 246 percent at the Department of Education, 175 percent at the Department of Agriculture and 142 percent at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, among others. Fortunately, Coburn’s investigation continues even though Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., succeeded the Oklahoman as subcommittee chairman when the Democrats took over the Senate in November. A new report on the probe is expected in a month or so.

General OpinionOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Ali Jamalian, whose life was disrupted in the wake of being charged with possession decades ago, now heads up Sunset Connect, a cannabis manufacturing company. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Green Rush: Cannabis equity program elevates unexpected entrepreneurs

‘It’s a form of reparations for those of us who were ruined by cannabis arrest’

The Giants and Dodgers face each other again following a May series the Dodgers swept; Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux caught stealing by Giants second baseman Donovan Solano at Oracle Park on May 23 is pictured. 
Chris Victorio/
Special to The Examiner
Giants vs. Dodgers: What you need to know before this week’s huge series

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner That grinding noise you’ll hear… Continue reading

San Francisco supervisors approved zoning changes that will allow a chain grocery store to occupy the bottom floor of the 555 Fulton St. condo building. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Trader Joe’s approved for Hayes Valley, bringing long-awaited grocery store

New Seasons Market canceled plans at 555 Fulton St. citing construction delays

Most Read