12 Jul 2003 And You Thought All It Subsidized Were Farms
Our executive director, David Almasi, had a comment about this Fox News/AP story. It is about the estimated 15 percent of the 55,000 employees at the U.S Department of Agriculture who carry government credit cards misusing the cards to, for example, “pay tuition for bartender school, to buy Ozzy Osbourne concert tickets, lingerie and tattoos and to make a down payment on a car”:
This, just like the similar problem with the local government here in Washington, shows the problems of big government. Besides a slap on the wrist, the punishment is to teach the employees how to use their credit cards properly. You can’t train someone to not get a tattoo with a government credit card. An action so blatantly illegal shows intent. When I accidentally used my company card for a personal expense a few years back, I was so mortified that I sent a letter of apology and thought about paying interest.
I’ll add a note of my own. The audit referred to in this story is a “random audit” of 300 of 55,000 card accounts. Are we to assume that standard operating procedure at the USDA is to give out credit cards and never check the charges? If so, that’s mismanagement. At our think-tank, every charge on every card is reviewed — by an outside, independent auditor, no less. It has never occurred to us to do it any differently, any more than we would pay a bill without verifying that the invoice is correct.
Furthermore, if one of our executives used a business card for personal advantage, the IRS could come down on us — hard — by taking away our permission to operate as a tax-exempt foundation. That isn’t an empty threat. On the two occasions The National Center was audited (each audit coincidentally occurred during the Clinton Administration — our only IRS audits in 21 years of business), our credit card records were carefully scrutinized. We did fine, but we wouldn’t have if we’d been using the federal government’s business model.