OTR Interviews

Decades of abuse? Why has no one been fired over the GSA scandal?

GSA scandal not only reveals disgraceful government waste, but also how difficult it is to fire federal officials

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 18, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: After the GSA's luxurious Vegas trip, you won't believe this video. Uh-oh! Senator Harry Reid on video in 2009 encouraging government workers to come to Las Vegas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The president's chief of staff wrote me a letter and said federal employees should be able to go anyplace that they want to go to. There should be no red line to keep them from going to Florida or to Las Vegas or Reno.

President Obama has taken some flack as a result of people saying, Well, why did he do this? He didn't do it. It started in the Bush administration. They did -- they sent two letters of direction, saying, Don't go to Nevada.

So what I did is send a copy of the president's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel's, letter to every government agency in Washington. They all know now, very clearly, that Las Vegas and Reno are on limit, not off limits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: So what was Majority Leader Harry Reid talking about? Senator John Barrasso joins us. Good evening, sir.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, R-WYO.: Thanks for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: And that whole video is on GretaWire.com. And I realize what Senator Harry Reid was trying to do is trying to drum up business for his own state, and the Bush administration had put off limits government trips to Nevada and Florida because it was seen as vacation. But that one's going to backfire on Senator Reid.

But I'm curious, why did they even have to meet?

BARRASSO: It just seems -- what American taxpayers need is value for their money, and clearly, they're not getting it when you look at this. And I think, Greta, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We're looking at arrogance. We're also looking at abuse of power.

And what I hear -- and I was at the hearings today -- American people deserve and ought to be demanding accountability for the way their tax dollars are spent. And this guy, Jeff Neely -- I mean, you'd think he is still getting paid tonight, Greta. He is still on the taxpayer payroll. And that just shows how very difficult it is to remove long-term career government employees. It's more likely that they actually die on the job than get removed from the job.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can't you change that? I mean, you all got the power. I mean, you got the House and the Senate. And ... I mean, you could change it.

BARRASSO: We're going to work on changing it. You know, you -- so the question is, why are you still getting paid? And do you really need the GSA?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll tell what disturbed me. And now, you're a first- year senator. So I'm going to -- I'm not going to include you in this one. But Senator Boxer said that the GSA has a history of misconduct dating back decades, under Republican and Democratic administrations.

When I heard her say that, I said, If there's a, quote, "history," if it goes back decades, what in the world were you all thinking as this was going on? History and decades? I mean, all these senators have been up there a long time -- not you, sir. But you know, they've known about this, apparently.

BARRASSO: Well, this -- the GSA come into place under Harry Truman, and the scandal started under Jimmy Carter. It's been both administration -- both -- different parties. That's why I get to the question, what is the role and the size and scope of government, and do we really need a GSA? Because if you can find this service in the Yellow Pages or the phone book, should the government be providing that service?

VAN SUSTEREN: Right. But my thought is, is that -- is that -- is it the members of the Senate and the House should be do -- should be monitoring this! If we don't need a GSA, get rid of it! If Jeff -- if Neely shouldn't be paid, stop paying him! Change the rules! If it's -- if there's a culture of corruption, ferret it out!. If we need more inspector generals, get them!

And -- and the one thing that we know is Senator Barbara Boxer says this has been going on for decades, that there's a history. There apparently is -- is knowledge that this is going on on Capitol Hill. It's bad enough we're getting cheated by GSA, but everyone else apparently is looking the other way!

BARRASSO: Yes, you want accountability. You want oversight. You want prosecution, criminal prosecution. You want people to lose their jobs who have done this and this sort of behavior. You want to make sure that the money is paid back. All of those things need to happen.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't even know why these people need to meet! Why don't they videoconference or rent a high school auditorium or something if they need to meet, if the -- I mean, like, why are they even partying, having these conferences? What's so important that they have to get together?

BARRASSO: And plus, they had 100 interns and they took to Palm Springs for $150,000.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I read the hotel thing, and it says that they can get relaxed. You can relax and get revivification. And I still don't know what revivification is, but you can get that at the hotel where the interns went!

BARRASSO: Neely went to Hawaii for a ribbon cutting that took an hour and stayed nine days! How is this anything other than corrupt?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, where -- where are his -- I mean, his colleagues must have known that was going on! I mean, there are so many levels of where people are just looking the other way!

BARRASSO: That's why it's a culture.

VAN SUSTEREN: A culture? But -- I mean...

BARRASSO: Yes. You got to stop it. Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, even -- even in the prison, everyone recognizes armed robbery. I mean, it's, like -- I mean, you can't just look the other way. I mean, if everyone at GSA -- I mean, you can't possibly -- they -- certainly, someone must have thought it was bad.

BARRASSO: They made -- well, whistleblowers are coming forward. But there's even a video that they paid all this money to play the video of government workers saying how they're wasting money and there's not going to be any investigation into it.

Well, I can assure them the investigations are going to continue. I visited with the inspector general today, and he says every time he turns over a rock, they're finding 50 more ugly things. This I believe, Greta, is just the tip of the iceberg.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I do hope you get to the bottom of it, and I do hope it changes, Senator, because desperately -- we can't -- this can't go on.

BARRASSO: No. The American people need and deserve value for their money. And they're just not getting it.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I might add that while they're spending $800,000 on a party at Vegas, is that we fight in communities about whether we have to cut teachers or firefighters or first responders. We're re worrying about that while they're whooping it up on the dollar.

BARRASSO: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Amazing. Senator, thank you, sir.

BARRASSO: Thanks for having me.