Politics
Tourists stop to watch the fountain show outside the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) Tourists stop to watch the fountain show outside the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)  

Rand Paul asks Issa to probe Obama admin. Vegas conference policy

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Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

In the wake of the General Services Administration scandal, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is asking House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa to investigate President Barack Obama’s administration’s choice to allow government employees to hold conferences in Las Vegas.

Paul specifically asked Issa to investigate “how many government agency conferences, from any agency throughout government, were held in Las Vegas” under the Obama’s administration.

With his request, Paul sent Issa a June 2009 letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, to then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, in which Reid made the case to Emanuel that government workers should be allowed to convene conferences in Vegas.

Reid and other Nevada politicians felt snubbed after Obama said, “You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.”

In a Washington Post opinion piece on Reid’s letter, Mark Barabak wrote, “the FBI, General Services Administration (Reid called it the General Services Agency) and Bureau of Indian Affairs had all apparently relocated gatherings once destined for Las Vegas.”

In the letter to Emanuel, Reid argued that the Obama administration should reconsider prohibiting government workers from holding events in Vegas on the basis that cities like it were too “leisure oriented.”

“Even during these difficult economic times, Las Vegas remains an unmatched destination featuring superior amenities, convenience and value,” Reid wrote. “Las Vegas has more than 10 million square feet of convention space, nearly 2,000 restaurants and 140,000 hotel rooms, with another 13,000 scheduled to open this year. The average nightly rate is $98, which is far lower than most of major convention cities.”

Reid added that “while Las Vegas has a well-earned reputation as a world-class dining and entertainment destination, it also offers an unmatched location for conducting business in terms of cost and availability of convention and related space. It is my view that travel decisions made by federal agencies should be based upon these considerations.”

Reid made no mention in the letter to Emanuel, however, of Las Vegas’ lavish nightlife: strip clubs, casinos, nightclubs, bars and more.

House Oversight Committee spokeswoman Becca Watkins told The Daily Caller that the committee has “received Paul’s letter and will respond.”

The GSA has come under fire in recent weeks for extravagant spending and videos in which agency employees can be seen bragging about how they’re wasting taxpayer money. The agency’s inspector general has been investigating a conference employees had in Las Vegas, as well.

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