No More Charging Strippers to Uncle Sam's Plastic

Lestertair /

This story has been updated.

Federal employees who want to gamble or frequent strip clubs for an evening of fun will have to use their own credit cards to pay for it.

An amendment included in the House-passed fiscal 2016 Defense spending bill prohibits Defense civilian workers and military personnel from using government charge cards for expenses related to “gaming, or for entertainment that includes topless or nude entertainers or participants.”

The language specifically prohibits gaming, rather than any expenses at a casino, so lodging and meals, for example, would be exempt.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., sponsored the amendment, which was adopted on voice vote. The House on Thursday passed the fiscal 2016 Defense spending bill. The full Senate has not yet considered its fiscal 2016 Defense appropriations legislation.

A recent Defense inspector general report found that civilian and military employees between 2013 and 2014 used government charge cards to make more than $1 million in purchases at casinos and to pay for adult entertainment. The IG initiated the review in 2014 in accordance with the 2012 Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act. The Pentagon said this represented a small fraction of the total transactions on department-issued cards, coming to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the charges.

In the IG review, some or all of the non-official expenses likely were paid by the individuals who used the government charge cards, the Pentagon has said. But even if employees didn’t submit such expenses for reimbursement from Uncle Sam, using a government charge card for those types of activities is considered improper.

After the IG’s findings came to light, the American Gaming Association spoke out against proposals that would ban the use of government charge cards at casinos, which Gosar’s amendment stops short of. Casinos “consist of much more than the gaming floor itself,” and a prohibition on using government charge cards there “would ignore the many legitimate business-related expenses incurred at gaming facilities,” gaming association CEO Geoff Freeman wrote in a May 21 letter to Defense officials. He added such a policy could prevent feds from staying in a casino’s hotel, shopping at its retail stores or dining at its restaurants.

On Friday, Sara Rayme, senior vice president of public affairs for AGA, commended Gosar for "recognizing the many legitimate business-related expenses, such as lodging, conventions and restaurants, federal employees incur at casinos across 40 states.

The Association of Club Executives, a trade group representing the strip club industry, told Government Executive in May the ban would be a step too far. “We trust the people who serve our country to exercise the Constitutional rights of freedom and privacy they work so hard to protect for the rest of us," said ACE National Executive Director Angelina Spencer. "We also respect their right to pursue a moment of happiness in the type of entertainment they choose, whether it’s a martini, a good cigar, bearing arms or bare arms.”

ACE did not immediately respond on Friday for comment about Gosar’s amendment.

U.S. Postal Service employees also recently ran into trouble for using their government charge cards at casinos, and an explosive report of excessive spending at a General Services Administration conference at a casino in 2010 led to the resignation of the agency’s chief and an overhaul of spending policies for traveling federal employees.  

Eric Katz contributed to this report.

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