Government Services Agency (GSA) Chief Administrator Martha N. Johnson was forced to resign today amid growing controversy following revelations of her agency's 2010 taxpayer-funded training conference held a plush Henderson, Nevada casino. The conference was attended by 300 west coast GSA employees at a taxpayer expense of $823,000. Johnson admitted the lavish event was a "bet that didn't pay off." Several other involved high level GSA officials have also resigned.
The conference at issue was held just prior to the 2010 elections. That election swept a large number of Tea Party conservatives into power, allowing the "right" to regain control of the House of Representatives. Most of the newly elected Representatives hinged their campaigns on the angst of a public angry at excessive, wasteful spending.
Martha Johnson's top adviser, Stephen Leeds, hinted to reporters that his boss was taking a fall for former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who he says is the real perpetrator behind the Nevada gambit. Emanuel, well known for his bully demeanor, apparently convinced President Obama in the summer of 2010 that the only way to get a handle on the booming deficit was to "shoot the moon" in Las Vegas The President was not initially interested, but a brief follow-up with Secretary of Treasury Tim "the-tax-cheat" Geithner convinced him there was literally no other way out.
The 300 GSA employees chosen for the Nevada challenge were carefully screened for their gambling aptitudes. Each was sworn to secrecy, and each was promised a cut of the net take, plus a "real good time in Vegas." The President later decided to pull the caper at Henderson instead of Las Vegas because it is much less in the lime light and therefore less prone to attract attention.
The GSA's high jinks began to unravel last week when a City of Chicago public union foreman who had previously been loyal to Emanuel (now Chicago's mayor) became angry at the Mayor for his announced intention to reduce city union-employee break time from eight to seven 15 minute breaks per eight hour work day. The peeved employee leaked the story to the Washington Post who initially decided to suppress it, but then published it when the worker said he would go to Fox News.
When questioned on the matter, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney offered this spin: "This was intended to be an object lesson for our country's citizens. As you know, the President has discouraged people from blowing their hard earned money in Vegas. Now he can show them a real object lesson. This was a very successful strategy and the President should be applauded for it."
At this point, no one is saying (if anyone knows) how many tax dollars the 300 GSA players lost in Henderson. There might be a clue somewhere in the President's recently defeated budget, which coinincidentally, included a new 82% Federal tax on all gambling activity.