Oversight Committee Issues Subpoena for Veteran Affairs’ Lavish Conference Spending Records

July 9, 2013

WASHINGTON – The House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) today issued a subpoena to Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki for communications related to the Department’s extravagant July and August 2011 human resources conferences held in Orlando, Fla.

The conference series cost approximately $5 million, from which $52,000 was allegedly spent to make a Patton parody video, $31,000 spent on a reception and $84,000 on promotional items such as highlighters and pens.

The Committee has sought documents from the Department related to lavish conference spending since April 2012, when it contacted 23 agencies, including the VA, for more information. It has yet to receive a complete response from Veterans Affairs. On August 13, after speaking with Secretary Shinseki and being assured that the Department would cooperate, Chairman Issa sent a letter requesting specific documents related to the July and August 2011 human resources conferences. A follow up letter was sent on August 21, 2012.

“It is unacceptable that Veteran Affairs still has not cooperated with the Committee’s requests nearly a year after they were originally sent,” Chairman Issa said in a statement. “After the personal assurances I received from Secretary Shinseki and the accommodations made by congressional investigators, there can be no excuse for the continued delay. I am forced to use the compulsory process and am determined to find out just why and how taxpayer dollars were spent in such an indulgent and careless manner.”

The subpoena requests all communication related to the 2011 conferences from 13 Department officials, including Secretary Shinseki.

Background:

  • Chairman Issa issued the original document request on August 13, 2012 – more than 10 months ago.
  • The Committee has made a series of accommodations for Department staff, from narrowing the scope of the request to extending deadlines.  Nevertheless, the Department has continued to be uncooperative to the point of being obstructionist.
  • Phone calls and e-mails to the Department’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs have rarely been returned or answered.  OCLA’s staff has been unresponsive for weeks at a time.  Committee staff has called and e-mailed Department staff more than 45 times, the majority of which have gone unanswered.
  • Over the course of several months, the Department has constantly promised that the documents will be delivered soon.  On October 11, 2012, Committee staff was told that the documents would start arriving the next day, but they did not.  Staff were next told that the documents would not come the next day, but “shortly thereafter.”  Most recently the documents were no longer “days away,” but “weeks away.”

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