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GOP leader says Labor Dept. is wasting tax money

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Aug. 18, 2014: Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor Thomas Perez speaks to business and community leaders at a Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce event. (AP)

The chairman of a House panel is asking Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to turn over to Congress documents and information the lawmaker alleges will show "a pattern of wasteful spending and mismanagement" at the Labor Department.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif., who leads the House Oversight Committee, asserted that the Labor Department's Office of Public Affairs "frivolously spends taxpayer money on unnecessary items." As an example, the lawmaker cited elevator posters changed weekly in the 23 passenger elevators at the department's headquarters, at a cost of $2,637 a week.

Since 2009, the posters have cost a total of more than $600,000, Issa wrote to Perez in a letter dated Monday. He also criticized what he depicted as excessive travel by Labor Department officials, and charged that the department used taxpayer dollars to hire a Washington Nationals baseball team mascot for an agency event "and spent over $100,000 to promote a book club."

The department issued a statement defending the spending as a valid morale booster for employees. "Our internal communications efforts make a difference in employee satisfaction, retention and most importantly, performance. Better performance from our employees translates into better value for the public," the department said.

Issa suggested such spending flies in the face of a November 2011 executive order by President Barack Obama directing executive-branch agencies to cut spending on "extraneous promotional items" and to "devise strategic alternatives to government travel."

"Spending taxpayer dollars on elevator posters, award contests, and unnecessary travel seems to be precisely the type of conduct President Obama intended to curtail," said Issa, a frequent critic of the Democratic administration.

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