Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Will Government’s Conference Scandals Spillover to Association Meetings?

First it was the General Services Administration spending $823,000 for a conference in Las Vegas.Now (10/1/12) comes an Inspector General’s report of lavish conference spending on the part of the Veteran’s Administration which spent more than $6 million on two conferences in Orlando. A 15-minute $50,000 “Patton video” was one highlighted expense. 

While some see these as examples of out-of-control federal spending during the Obama Administration, I see them as a threat to association meetings.

  • Will these two scandals result in new legislation governing conference spending?
  • Will they lead association members to question association meeting expenses?
  • Will they result in travel restrictions that hurt the conference & meetings industry?
  • Do they mean that association CEOs need to more carefully examine conference expenses? 
Those of us involved in planning and implementing conferences need to be mindful that these two scandals will have our members and volunteer leaders taking a closer look at what we are doing and how much it costs.  This is especially the case in industries/professionals that the recession has hit extremely hard (associations representing housing, construction, reality, etc.) 

This is a reminder of the old phrase “Perception is Reality.”

10/11/12 Update:
Ernie Smith shared the following report in Associations Now:
Roughly 80 National Weather Service employees couldn’t travel after the Department of Commerce failed to authorize funding.

This week’s annual meeting of the National Weather Association could best be described, as, well … stormy.

Last week, one of the conference’s largest contingents — employees of the National Weather Service (NWS) — found out they couldn’t attend after the Department of Commerce, the parent agency of the group, failed to approve more than $200,000 in funding for travel to the conference, forcing a 65 percent cut in the agency’s travel budget for the meeting,according to The Washington Post.

The conflict may be the first major manifestation of new rules implemented by the federal government limiting spending on conferences in the wake of the Government Spending Accountability Act, passed after a General Services Administration conference in 2010 drew congressional attention.

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