WASHINGTON - Already heavily criticized for targeting conservative groups, the Internal Revenue Service absorbed another blow Tuesday as new details emerged about senior officials enjoying luxury hotel rooms, free drinks and free food at a $4.1 million training conference. It was one of many expensive gatherings the agency held for employees over a three-year period.
One top official stayed five nights in a room that regularly goes for $3,500 a night. Another official, Faris Fink, stayed four nights in a room that regularly goes for $1,499.
Fink was later promoted to head the IRS division that staged the 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif., a position he still holds. He also has the distinction of playing Mr. Spock in a cheesy but slickly-produced "Star Trek" video that IRS employees filmed for the conference.
From right to left: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.; Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas; Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas; Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; listen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, to organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status.
A total of 132 IRS officials received room upgrades at the conference, according to a report by J. Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general for tax administration. The tax agency paid a flat daily fee of $135 per hotel room, the report said, but the upgrades were part of a package deal that added to the overall cost of the conference.
The report was made public on the same day leaders of six conservative groups testified at a congressional hearing, where they told lawmakers they had endured abuse from IRS agents as they spent years trying to qualify for tax-exempt status.