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U.S. agency's video rekindles wasteful spending debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The fallout from a lavish government conference last year worsened on Thursday with the release of a spoof video from the gathering in which a federal employee raps about wasteful spending and jokes he will never face internal investigation.

The video, entitled "Federal Worker 'American Idle,'" is certain to spur fresh Republican attacks on President Barack Obama's spending record, which they hope to make a key issue in the 2012 election campaign this fall.

The federal government is closing in a fourth straight year of $1 trillion-plus deficits, with a nearly $1 trillion deficit projected for next year.

The video, which won a talent contest at the General Services Administration training conference in October 2010 at the M Resort Spa Casino outside Las Vegas, was released on YouTube by House of Representatives Oversight and Investigations Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a leading Republican.

It shows an employee from the federal procurement agency's office in Hawaii rapping from his work cubicle that "Obama better prepare when I'm (a GSA) commissioner" because "I buy everything your field office can't afford".

"I'll never be under OIG investigation," he says, referring to the GSA Office of Inspector General.

In a separate video of the awards ceremony, a GSA official identified by Issa's staff as David Foley, the Deputy Commissioner of the Public Building Service, jokes about how to pay the hotel for the previous night's "party that was held in the commissioner's suite."

In a statement, a GSA spokesman called the video "another example of the complete lack of judgment exhibited during Western Regions conference. Our agency continues to be appalled by this indefensible behavior, and we are taking every step possible to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again."

The agency's head, Martha Johnson, resigned on Tuesday as the OIG labeled the conference "excessive and wasteful" and said it violated GSA's own policies. Two other senior GSA officials were also dismissed.

Issa criticized the Obama administration for failing to expose the wasteful spending, even though top GSA officials were informed of the OIG investigation in May 2011.

"This administration knew about the spending scandal 11 months ago and they didn't act until this week," he said in a statement.

The OIG report on the conference cited the catered parties in officials' hotel rooms as among questionable expenses and said $130,000 worth of scouting trips ahead of the five-day conference were wasteful. It also cited tuxedo rentals and a $75,000 contract to an outside vendor for a team-building exercise that included the purchase of 24 bicycles.

(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Paul Simao)

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