Deep in debt, USPS spends millions at business forum - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Deep in debt, USPS spends millions at business forum

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By CLAUDIA COWAN, FOX News

SAN FRANCISCO -- The ailing United States Postal Service is cutting Saturday service and shutting down small town offices to stay afloat. But, that hasn't stopped the cash-strapped agency from spending millions of dollars to wine and dine a few hundred employees.

At the annual National Postal Forum, 400 postal service executives will spend much of the next four days meeting with thousands of shippers and those in the direct mail industry.
       
Then, everyone gets to have a good time in San Francisco: there's a golf outing, dance, and a fancy buffet featuring the foods of Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown.
       
Documents show the travel, $220,000 in exhibit space, and other incidentals will cost the USPS $2.2 million.
       
According to the USPS, "the agency receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations".  
       
A spokesperson claims the agency makes more money than it spends because of the new businesses generated at the forum. But critics argue the post office is a monopoly that shouldn't need to spend millions of dollars to network, especially when it's $16 billion dollars in debt.

"The postal service is deep, deep in the hole and then to see that they're having this lavish conference with golfing outings and dance party. It's just beyond the pale, said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
       
In a letter fired off to the postmaster, Congressman Tom Graves of Georgia said, "spending millions to participate in the conference seems to exhibit extremely poor judgment by USPS leadership. In fact, as the USPS cuts services and nears bankruptcy, the expense defies logic."
       
But, attendees like Theresa Peterlein, a direct mail consultant, argue postal execs need to be at the forum.

"If they just sat in their offices in Washington, they really wouldn't get a feel of what the mailers want and need out of the industry, because the industry's changing, technology's changing, and the postal service is changing with it," said Peterlein.

The expense is getting close scrutiny in Washington, as the House Oversight Committee holds formal hearings into wasteful travel by government agencies.

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