On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing looking into an Inspector General's report that found lavish spending on conferences by the IRS.
As NPR's Tamara Keith reports, Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked the question on a lot of people's minds when they watched a pair of videos — one with a Star Trek theme — that cost taxpayers $50,000.
"What were you thinking?" Issa asked Faris Fink, the commissioner of the IRS division that held the conference.
"They are embarrassing and I regret the fact that they were made," Fink answered.
Perhaps the highlight of the hearing, however, is the dressing down that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) gave the IRS employees and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George.
"This is not a training issue," Gowdy said told George, adding that it can't be fixed by another training session. "It strikes me as a cultural systemic, character, moral issue."
The reason for that, Gowdy implied, is that while IRS agents were staying in lavish rooms and paying keynote speakers $17,000, some government workers — including law enforcement officers and teachers — across the country were being furloughed.
Gowdy's voice cracked when he told the story of one of his secretaries, who came into his office after hours to borrow some money.
"She kept apologizing for having to do it. She kept saying, 'I'll pay you back. I'll pay you back.' And at exactly the same time that young government employee, single mom was borrowing money for a child's birthday present, other government employees were staying in $3,500 a night rooms. Other government employees were spending more money on promotional materials than that young women makes in a year."
Here's the full video posted by the congressman's office: