Like A Junkie With A Stolen Platinum Card

Let’s put the facts in order here.

Rebecca Otto, one of the nastiest little people in Minnesota politics,  defeated Pat Anderson, one of the most proactive and competent state auditors this state has ever had, in 2006, partly on a promise to “make sure rules are followed”, but mostly on a wave of anti-incumbent fervor that swept out all the GOP constitutional officers except the Governor and Lieutentant Governor.

She then proceeded to do a very spotty job of auditing, but did manage to spend money like a sailor on leave.

She did, however, get very pissy when people tried to hold her accountable for her office’s counterintuitively spendthrift ways.

“State Auditor Rebecca Otto’s re-election campaign this morning accused the Minnesota GOP Party of making ‘sweeping’ data requests in search of information to smear her campaign. She said the state GOP and an aligned group are using the Minnesota Public Data Practices Act to make ‘open ended, burdensome data requests of at least one constitutional office on the taxpayers’ dime.’”  (Charley Shaw, “Otto accuses Minnesota GOP Party of ‘burdensome’ public data request.” Legal Ledger, June 30, 2010)

Not that there was any doubt I was voting to return Pat Anderson to the Auditor’s office this fall, I realize – but seriously, Otto’s regime at the Auditor’s office almost reads like a parody.

Read the MDE story.

20 thoughts on “Like A Junkie With A Stolen Platinum Card

  1. Asking the state auditor to provide public data to the public? The very nerve!

  2. Having done a bit of business travel myself, I’ve learned that one can generally get a room for less than $300 per night, and $30 for a breakfast?

    I’d love to see a graph of what people spend for their own food, vs. what they spend when they’re traveling on somebody else’s dime. I bet it’s not even close.

  3. But a great meal costs much less when you can buy good food on sale and prepare it yourself. I seldom go out to eat and when I’m out of town on business I don’t change what I eat just to save the company a dime.
    “Do you eat like that at home?” Yes, yes I do.
    You should see what we eat when we’re camping!

    Hint: buy a whole tenderloin (last one I bought on sale was only $7 per pound) cut it from the small end into about 2″+ thick sections and buy some bacon… start the grill… Voilà! bacon wrapped fillet Mignon for a fraction of the price. Use the larger end for Chateaubriand steak.

  4. I don’t know about you, bubba, but it’s hard for me to spend what I’d spend on myself when I’m traveling on the company dime. I’m perfectly comfortable in spending the night in cheaper hotels than the ones that the company uses but the company forces me to use the hotels in their network because billing is easier.

    The last time I was in SanFran I wanted to spend time in a $100/night hotel near some friends, but the company wouldn’t allow it and dumped me in a $300/night hotel that was even more expensive because I wound up having to pay for WiFi, breakfast, parking, and a bunch of other stuff the other place gave away free.

  5. I am on the board for a non-profit and do some traveling related to this. I stay at some nice Super 8’s and Econo-lodges, or if I feel like splurging, did do a Baymont Inn recently.

    I see Otto spent $300 a night in Chicago. When I go there, I go to Expedia or Travelocity and find a nice room for around $120 a night. But hey, if it’s not your money……

  6. nerdbert said:

    “but the company forces me to use the hotels in their network because billing is easier”

    This is what “being on the State contract” is mostly about, unfortunately.

  7. The wife and daughter and I went up to visit Jay Cook State Park and stayed at the Americinn in Carlton. $90 for the night and we got free breakfast.
    Like Chuck said, “If it’s not your money…

  8. This is what “being on the State contract” is mostly about, unfortunately.

    It isn’t just public sector. The last company my wife worked at, she had to travel to Chicago every 4-6 weeks, and the company had a contract with Westin Hotels. So she ended up staying in a $250/night room when she would have been fine at Holiday Inn Express for half that. But like nerdbert says, sometimes when you’re on business, you stay where your company tells you rather than where you feel comfortable with the rates.

    Of course, I would imagine someone as high up as Otto could make the choice of not only where to stay, but which hotel companies the state does business with. I’m of the mindset that if you’re on MY dime (as a taxpayer), Super8/Motel6 and 3 meals per day at McD’s is MORE than suitable. On top of that, gov’t office buildings should have no decoration or artwork or fancy frou frou crap. 70’s style Russian concrete square monstrosities, if you ask me. That is always one thing that galls me when they have to build a new bridge (like 35W or the upcoming Lowry). SCREW making it pretty, make it FUNCTIONAL. When you are driving over a bridge, you should have your eyes on the road, not on the towers and cables and whatnot.

  9. I don’t know about you, bubba, but it’s hard for me to spend what I’d spend on myself when I’m traveling on the company dime. I’m perfectly comfortable in spending the night in cheaper hotels than the ones that the company uses but the company forces me to use the hotels in their network because billing is easier.

    I’ve found that to be the case, too, especially with a former employer that was maniacal about staying with network hotels. I could have saved my company a lot of money, but they weren’t interested in that.

  10. I looked at the original docs and it appears that the $300 a night hotel rooms are for a single person in a single room. I checked Expedia, put in Chicago for Tuesday August 3 (to randomly pick a business day) and the rooms in the loop for for between $110-190.

    The Sheritan in question comes up as $219 a night. Not sure why they paid $300 a night (and for several nights).

    It looks like there were several presenations, but perhaps the Auditors office could look at doing webinars in the future.

  11. This is what “being on the State contract” is mostly about, unfortunately.

    This was for private business, not anything government related. The company has done away with nearly all the “support” functions and outsourced them to other companies. This “streamlined” model means that since there’s nobody to look over reports they assign you to hotels that are “in network” and pre-approved. Is it actually more cost effective to do it this way? I don’t know, but it’s annoying at several levels.

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  13. couple of questions – sometimes the drop in cost for pre-approved facilities for business come at the company end – they get the break when they pay. Think of something where when shopping the regular price is still marked on the item but the correct sale price shows up at the register. Instead of the register, it shows up in the company computer end when the travel expense is paid.

    I was speaking with a friend just last week, who is mid to upper level in the DNR, hearing travel nightmare stories about staying in motel 6s and super-8s with problems, like bug problems.(there are good ones, and bad ones) So this notion that the state is widely spending money like this is I suspect a bit misleading.

    The other question this story raised is was there some kind of presentation involved where other facilities than just the hotel room were associated – some kind of conference space, where it was necessary, or at least practical for the state gov. to pay for the hotel room in that location rather than somewhere cheaper.

    God or the devil is so often in those details. This may be a legitimate story about excessive spending – those happen, I agree. But not all of them are, and some which are presented as such turn out not to be.

  14. When I’m on business travel I usually stay at mid-range accommodations, particularly back in the days when I was a road warrior. These days the work is more consulting, I still try to stay at decent places that have a restaurant and lounge on-site. When I need to dine and entertain clients I try to go the middle of the road route. Occasionally we’ll splurge; it all depends on the circumstances. Our corporation is in the private sector.

    I believe public sector (read government) travel should be done only very-very rarely, and as cheaply as possible, nothing frivolous.

  15. DG, I see the bill from Amex, so if the company gets a kickback it’s after they pay Amex. That would be a tolerably complex thing to arrange, but it’s possible they do, which is why I questioned if it is cost effective. I honestly don’t know, but I hope someone is actually looking at this kind of stuff rather than the typical HR trendy herd mentality.

    As to the issue of discounts, there may have been some, but I’ve been to enough conferences on both the company and government dime to find that it’s been extremely rare where the hotel rooms in the conference center were cost competitive. They sell those rooms based on convenience, not cost, and you pay a premium for them. When you’re spending public money you should expect to be held to a much higher standard since you’re talking about taking money from waitresses and store clerks to pay for your convenience and luxuries.

  16. Mitch, you mock a restrained headline of mine and can’t be bothered to deal with what the piece actually says.

    Then you write an inflammatory headline and can’t be bothered to substantiate it here.

    Really, drunken sailor? Because she split a lobster dinner with another state employee and stayed at a conference hotel that your travel experts declare was too expensive? And if she’d stayed elsewhere, it would be “why is she paying for a cab or renting a car to go to the conference hotel?”

    The MNGOP is supposed to be the party of business, but they can’t figure out an expense report. Let me help. Otto traveled on the 8th returned on the 12th. The state meal reimbursement is $31 per day. She claimed $90.48. Please tell me I don’t have to do the math for you, too.

    Ask your own company CEO what he thinks a top executive’s time is worth and whether he goes to Days Inn to save the shareholders money.

    This would be bullshit if the Dems were dogging Pat Anderson for the same thing, but you can claim the prize.

  17. But you make a good point . We should focus on Rebecca Otto’s accomplishments as State Auditor.

    Here we go.

    There’s…

    …um…

    …oh, my…

    Oh, wait! There’s…

    ….er, no.

    Um….

    …Well, all right – there’s just nothing to talk about, is there?

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