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Martha Johnson, Who Helps Create Feds' Conference Rules, Resigns Over, Um, A Lavish Conference

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Martha Johnson, the head of the General Services Administration, is resigning after her agency held a pricey conference.
Martha Johnson, the head of the General Services Administration, is resigning after her agency held a pricey conference.

An extravagant conference sponsored by U.S. taxpayers is costing some government officials their jobs.

General Services Administration chief Martha Johnson is resigning after a recent report from the watchdog responsible for the government agency revealed that a lavish conference hosted by the GSA cost more than $820,000, the Washington Post reports. In Nevada, 300 guests enjoyed extravagances such as pricey meals, entertainment from a clown and a mind reader.

That won't bode well for those arguing the federal government spends taxpayer money carefully. Those defenders certainly face an uphill battle in getting their point across. As of last summer, the federal government was listed as the most hated industry in America by Gallup.

Nor is the GSA ithe only government-related institution to be accused of spending lavishly on conferences. Last month, government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac came under fire for "questionable" spending relating a $600,000 conference it held for the Mortgage Bankers Association last October. But executives from the government agencies defended the event, saying it lead to more than 200 meetings with customers.

Past criticism has sometimes fallen flat though. Last fall, auditors criticized the Justice Department after auditors found that the agency was overspending on food for events including $16 muffins. A later review of the audit found that the muffins alone didn't cost $16, instead they were part of a larger breakfast that included other pastries.

But the GSA episode is especially notable given that the agency's tasks include "developing the rules followed by other federal agencies for conferences," GSA Inspector General Brian D. Miller wrote in his report. Likewise, the misstep reflects poorly upon President Obama, as the report comes amid his administration's efforts to counter accusations of overspending.

For his part, President Obama has tried to clean up the federal government's image as a lavish spender, pushing for the federal government to sell off underused property, including islands.

It's the Federal Aviation Administration, however, that's had the biggest blowout in recent years. In 2009, the FAA spent $5 million on a conference in Atlanta that hosted a total of 3,600 managers over the course of three weeks, ABC News reports. Footage from ABC World News with Diane Sawyer shows FAA employees drinking heavily and partying, evoking public criticism from Vice President Joe Biden.

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