Several branches of the federal government have revised their travel policies so as not to appear as though they're misusing tax dollars during these tough economic times.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice recently eliminated Las Vegas, Reno and Orlando from their list of eligible cities in which the agencies can hold conferences. The concern, according to government sources, is that taxpayers view these cities as too lavish or fun for government travel.
And what are some of the cities the government approved? You guessed it. St. Louis is at the top of the list. So, too, are Milwaukee and Denver. Government bean counters say these cities are good because they're A) relatively easy to fly to, B) inexpensive and C) not perceived as resort locations.
So how many times is it now that St. Louis has been ranked No. 1 by being at the bottom?
— Chad Garrison
Two weeks ago we posted a short article asking readers their opinions on which of President Barack Obama's fashion statements was worse at the All-Star Game: his White Sox jacket or his creased, Obamama jeans?
Did the POTUS catch wind of our blog post? Perhaps.
This week Obama told an NBC reporter, "I heard they were cracking on my jeans," but that he couldn't care less. More important is how the First Lady appears. "Michelle, she looks fabulous," says Obama. "I'm a little frumpy." (CG)
Pet Food Executive Lived Like Fat Cat, Allegedly Bilked Nestle Purina $250,000
The former director of marketing for Nestle Purina PetCare has been indicted on fraud charges for use of his company credit card.
According to the U.S. Attorneys Office, Thomas Faulkner billed the company more than $250,000 in fraudulent invoices that he used for personal items and travel, including trips to Disney World and college football games.
Faulkner served as director of marketing for Nestle Purina PetCare and its subsidiary, CheckMark Communications, from 2005 to June 17 of this year.
The indictment states that Faulkner had the authority to expense certain costs to Nestle Purina to implement the plans and strategies on a company American Express credit card. Some of those legitimate expenses included entertainment, meals and travel, and promotional items including Sirius radios, iPods and gift cards.
However, as alleged in the indictment, when Faulkner obtained the invoices or receipts for these legitimate expense items, he would use the document as a template to create false and unauthorized bills and invoices and submit them to Nestle Purina as legitimate expense items.
These expenses would be on the books of Nestle Purina and paid to Faulkner for reimbursement for fraudulent bills.
John Gillies, the special agent in charge of the FBI in St. Louis, used Faulkner's arrest and indictment as a warning. "No corporate executive, no matter how high on the ladder, is above the law," says Gillies. "The FBI will aggressively investigate and hold accountable anyone who participates in corporate fraud, whether it involves swindling millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Faulkner, 40, of O'Fallon, Illinois, was indicted by a federal grand jury July 1 on one felony count of mail fraud. The indictment remained suppressed until the arrest of the defendant.
If convicted, mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. (CG)
Cigar and Pipe Association Denounces Proposed Smoking Ban in St. Louis County
Ever hear of the IPCPR? No?
Well, they're not quite the NRA, but they do lobby hard for what they believe is a fundamental right for all Americans: the right to smoke in public.
Last week the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association sent out a release alerting media that it will fight a bill that would have residents of St. Louis County vote on an indoor smoking ban for bars, restaurants and other businesses.
"We want to go on record as being against this proposed ban and any legislated smoking ban, for that matter," states IPCPR's legislative director, Chris McCalla. "Government should stay out of private business decisions like this. If a business owner decides to prevent smoking on the premises, that's fine. It's his or her individual right to do so."
McCalla continues that "anti-smoking forces" use misinformation and "junk science" to arrive at bogus claims about the true risks of secondhand smoke.
"They say there are no safe levels for secondhand smoke. Not true," says McCalla. "OSHA has set safe levels for secondhand smoke that are exponentially higher than the air quality found in average restaurants and bars."
What impact — if any — IPCPR's involvement will have on the smoking-ban debate in St. Louis County remains to be seen.
IPCPR acknowledges that it has fewer than 40 members in the entire state of Missouri. Also, if the county smoking ban follows a similar ordinance approved in Clayton, smoking will still be allowed in cigar and tobacco shops.
Whatever the case, I just gotta say that I love the way the cigar and pipe association abbreviates its name as IPCPR. There are just too few tobacco lobbies these days with enough moxie to choose an acronym ending in CPR. (CG)