The Washington Examiner’s phony travel card story

The Washington Examiner, the right wing web site that pretends to be a newspaper, has what it apparently thinks is a big scoop this morning:

Postal employees have spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on gambling, bills and other personal expenses, according to a series of reports by the U.S. Postal Service inspector general.

Shocking, isn’t it? Just one problem- it’s not true. In the first place, of course, most people know by now that the USPS isn’t funded by the taxpayer. But the most important fact that the Examiner chooses to ignore is that government travel cards are credit cards issued to employees who travel on postal business. While the cards are intended to be used solely for official travel expenses, the individual employee is responsible for all charges made on the card.

So if some stupid manager uses his travel card to get a cash advance at a casino so he can gamble, (as has been done), it is accurate to say that

  • he is certifiably stupid
  • he has violated USPS regulations and federal law, and…
  • he should be fired

But it is totally false to say that he has cost the taxpayer, or even the postal ratepayer, any money. That cash advance will appear on his next statement, and Citibank will expect repayment, regardless of whether the advance was made legitimately or not. The USPS isn’t out a single penny.

The Examiner story pretends to be an investigative story, painstakingly crafted from the results of Freedom of Information Act requests, but all of the information it “reveals” is, and always has been, freely available on the OIG website. Had the authors read the reports more carefully, they might have noticed this:

The Postal Service provides individual government travel cards to designated employees for use while on official travel. Employees are responsible for all charges and automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawals.

“Employees”. Not “the taxpayer”, “the ratepayer”, or the USPS. So much for the Examiner’s shocking expose!

If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the Washington Post ran a similarly misleading story in 2011. To its credit, the Post corrected most of the errors in that story after we pointed them out. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Examiner to do the same.

Read more: Postal service employees use travel cards to gamble, pay bills and go bowling | WashingtonExaminer.com.

Washington Post ‘cleans up’ Collins quotes on travel report

We told you earlier today about the inaccurate comments attributed to Senator Susan Collins in the Washington Post story about today’s OIG report on USPS travel expenses. Referring to the misuse of USPS travel credit cards, Collins was quoted as saying: “It is unconscionable that these charges were rung up and the bill sent to the American taxpayers”. This despite the fact that, as Collins well knows, the USPS does not receive taxpayer funds, and that the cards in question were in the names of the employees, not the USPS. Continue reading

OIG Travel report: Carper says USPS leadership has ‘clearly failed to set a good example’

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the U.S. Postal Service, reacted to a recent Postal Service Inspector General report that details abuse of agency credit cards by postal employees:

“We’re at a point today where the Postal Service is losing a record amount of money year in and year out. Cumulative losses could total nearly $240 billion by 2020. Things are so bad that the Postal Service may actually be forced to close its doors by next Christmas. So, at a time when my colleagues and I are working so hard to stabilize the Postal Service’s finances, it is disturbing and deeply disappointing to hear this latest news about postal employees abusing agency credit cards.

“Postal management is currently pursuing tough changes such rate increases, cuts in service, and wage and benefit concessions from its employees as part of their effort to reduce costs. I’ve told the new Postmaster General and his predecessor that he and other top postal executives need to do their part as well. If they are going to ask postal employees and customers to make sacrifices to save the Postal Service, then the postal leadership certainly has a responsibility to set a good example when it comes to frugality and basic financial management. In this case, they have clearly failed. I intend to get to the bottom of how these abuses went unchecked for so long and find a way to prevent similar instances of waste and fraud moving forward.”

OIG travel report provides ammunition for right wing

The right-wing anti-labor lobbying group “Citizens Against Government Waste” didn’t waste any time publicizing today’s OIG report on lax controls over USPS official travel expenses. The CAGW press release, like the earlier comments by Susan Collins, implies that postal employees “expensed” adult entertainment parties, personal computers, and their mortgage payments. The OIG report doesn’t say that, but apparently the story is going to stick unless the USPS can mount an effective PR response. (You would have thought that having known about the contents of this report for quite some time now, the agency would have pre-empted the bad publicity by getting its story out first.)

The CAGW statement goes on to repeat its usual litany of comments about “lavish” union salaries and benefits, distorts the trust fund issue, and says that postal employees are “still partying like it’s 1999”. Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

But the funniest comment is this:

“Any proposal to tinker with the funding mechanism for retiree pension and health insurance liabilities, which are around $90 billion, is another example of USPS kicking the proverbial fiscal can down the road,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “The agency is locked into a smothering cost structure”

Schatz conveniently fails to note that the USPS has actually overfunded its pension liabilities, and that the most “smothering cost structure” the service suffers from is the requirement to continue that overfunding.

Schatz concludes by telling us that the USPS should be, you guessed it, privatized. You know, like Sweden. Continue reading