Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) (@jasoninthehouse) came out of the gate with strong questions for Mr. Fink, the Commissioner of the Small Business/Self-Employed Division, the Division that spent $4.1 million for a conference in Anaheim, California, in the fall of 2010. Highlights of Representative Chaffetz’s questions and Mr. Fink’s responses are below.
Chaffetz: How big was your room? Did you ever stay in a room like that?
Fink: Yes I have sir.
Chaffetz: When was that?
Fink: In another conference sir, where we had reserved most of the hotel, I was given a suite, not quite that large.
Chaffetz: When and where was that?
Fink: In Chicago. I believe it was actually in, I’d be speculating, but I believe it was in 2009.
Chaffetz: Because of your rise in rank, did you believe you were entitled to this?
Fink: No sir.
Chaffetz: Why did you get it then?
Fink: It’s my understanding it was part of what was negotiated with the hotel.
Chaffetz: When did you think this was wrong?
Fink: I think now that we should have been paying closer watch to our expenditures and the expenses. I don’t think the conference itself was wrong because at the time we were in at the Internal Revenue Service, 30% of our managers in Small Business were brand new. We were going through a very difficult time in trying to get our leaders to recognize…
Chaffetz: When did you think something was wrong here? Did you ever think something was wrong here? What do you think is wrong about this picture?
Fink: I think now that in retrospect, looking back, that you take a look at the expenses. We should have been more diligent in our responsibility to the American taxpayer and to the American public.
Chaffetz: And you’re in charge of this group, right?
Fink: At this time I am yes.
Chaffetz: And you were #2 at the time of the conference.
Fink: Yes sir.
Chaffetz: When did it strike you that this was wrong? When you got called to testify before Congress?
Fink: No sir.
Chaffetz: Well when?
Fink: I do not think the conference itself, the premise that it was based upon, was wrong because of the needs of our employees at that time. I do not think that the conference was wrong.
Chaffetz: When did you become aware of the massive expense?
Fink: I actually did not become aware of the massive expense until much later. I did not know what the expense was at the time of the conference that we were paying.
Chaffetz: And you’re the #2 person in that division. And you are oblivious to the expenses. You are totally ignorant of the expenses.
Fink: I was not involved in the planning and execution.
Chaffetz: Who was?
Fink: They put together a planning team.
Chaffetz: Who specifically authorized this and when did you realize it was wrong?
Fink: If you look at the Inspector General’s report…
Chaffetz concludes: “No, I want to know from you, you personally. You’re in charge. This is what’s so infuriating. You’re in charge. You have a public trust. You’re paid by the American taxpayer to be responsible, to be respectful, to have knowledge, to have oversight. And yet you can’t even tell me when you thought this was wrong. In fact you’re saying well it was a pretty good conference.“