"Taxpayers should take comfort that a conference like this would not take place today," assured acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Danny Werfel last week.
He referred to outlandish, inexcusable spending of taxpayers' money in a 2010 conference of IRS employees held in Anaheim, Calif.
Werfel referred to the $4 million tab for the conference, attended by 2,600 people. Some of them stayed in "presidential" hotel suites, on the taxpayers' dime. Though it is normal practice for government agencies to negotiate breaks on room rates for such events, the IRS did not bother in Anaheim.
Fifteen speakers at the conference shared a total of $135,000 in fees, with one paid $17,000 to talk about "leadership through art."
Werfel said the conference was "an unfortunate vestige from a prior era." And he said ending such wasteful spending is "a personal priority for me."
Werfel's comments would be more reassuring if we hadn't heard it all before. It won't happen again, taxpayers have been told over and over again for decades. We'll believe it's over when we don't see it happening anymore.