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IRS Official: Lavish Spending an Embarrassment

Faris Fink, Commissioner, Small Business and Self-Employed Division, IRS testifies on Capitol Hill, Washington, June 6, 2013.
A top official of the U.S. tax collecting agency has told lawmakers it is "embarrassing" how much the Internal Revenue Service spent during a 2010 conference in California.

The official, Faris Fink, said the $4.1 million gathering conformed to agency procedures at the time, but today new rules would prevent such a lavish conference.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was questioning Fink about a new report that said the IRS spent nearly $50 million on 225 employee conferences from 2010 through 2012.

Committee Chairman Republican Darrell Issa accused the agency of grossly mismanaging taxpayer money with conference spending that was "at best maliciously self-indulgent."

The IRS has also been under a cloud of scandal for improperly targeting religious and conservative political groups that applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Fink told lawmakers, "The Treasury inspector general's office review found no instances of fraud."

But this week, the IRS' new acting commissioner placed two officials on administrative leave for accepting free food at a party in a private suite at the conference.

At that conference, Fink stayed in a luxury suite that normally cost $1,499 a night. He also played Mr. Spock in a "Star Trek'' parody video filmed by IRS employees, which along with two other videos cost $50,000.

The revelations about the IRS improperly targeting political and religious groups have led to investigations by three congressional committees and the Justice Department. One top IRS official was forced to resign, a second retired and a third was placed on paid administrative leave.