From NBC News:
TOM BROKAW, anchor:
Time now for the FLEECING OF AMERICA. The past few years have been good years for the US Postal Service. They’ve turned a profit, and on-time delivery is up, but a recent going-away for their leader turned into what some are calling first-class FLEECING. Here’s NBC’s Bob Kur.
BOB KUR reporting:
It was the kind of tribute normally reserved for Washington’s elite: a huge party at Washington’s historic Union Train Station. But critics say it turned into an extravagant FLEECING OF AMERICA, a farewell party of Postmaster General Marvin Runyan and 400 guests. The cost: more than $120,000. If you use stamps, you helped pay for it, because the bill was paid by money the Postal Service takes in. Enough to cause some to cry, “return to spender.” Congressman John McHugh runs the committee that monitors Postal Service operations.
Mr. JOHN McHUGH: Something was out of control. There’s no controlling factor, no controlling mechanism.
KUR: It’s ironic. For his six-year tenure as Postmaster General, Runyan was praised for cost-cutting, modernizing, and making the Postal Service more efficient. So how did Postal Board officials thank Runyan? By picking Union Station, an architectural gem and one of the most expensive places in Washington, for a party. By day, a mix of travelers and shoppers; by night, a party for Washington’s powerful. How did the bill get so high? Seventy-five thousand to rent Union Station; programs, invitations and menus: $21,000; travel expenses for out-of-town guests, about $15,000; a video tribute: $5,000; and commemorative mementos honoring Runyan: $1,800. Add it all up, and the money spent for the party was enough to mail 376,000 letters at 32 cents a piece. And there’s more, the same Postal Board that OK’ed the costly party voted just one week later to raise the price of stamps and other Postal Services in January.
Mr. RALPH DEGENARO (Taxpayers For Common Sense): When taxpayers lick that first 33 cent stamp on January 10th, 1999, they ought to keep in mind the $120,000 party that they were not invited to and the $4 billion in debt the Postal Service still has.
KUR: Postal Service would not respond on camera. In a telephone interview, Marvin Runyan said the cost was unfortunate, but that it was a great party. Also a great example of a first-class FLEECING OF AMERICA. Bob Kur, NBC News, Washington.