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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Muffins, Coins and Bicycles

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Remember the scandal last year over the reports of the $16 muffin at a Justice Department conference? (Even though it turned out it wasn't really a $16 muffin.) 

In the wake of the spate of stories about muffins and federal conference spending in general, the White House moved swiftly to order agencies to review their conference policies and practices. I wonder if that led to today's revelation that  the General Services Administration had organized an event that involved spending $3,200 for a mind reader; $6,300 on a commemorative coin set in velvet boxes and $75,000 on a training exercise to build a bicycle.

At any rate, it's clear that the White House has a zero-tolerance policy for spending on conferences that could result in embarassing anecdotes like this. Unfortunately, that didn't stop another another headline-grabbing tale from emerging.

It'll be interesting to see if the White House will take further steps to curb conference spending, especially for the remainder of this election year. Right about now, the Obama administration probably just wants to get to November without another story alleging that bureaucrats are spending lavishly on event entertainment at a time of a national budget crisis. 

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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