Based on spending records at federal agencies and military offices across the government, the Washington Post reported $180,000 in expenditures on official portraits for members of the White House cabinet last year. Details about the commissions have drawn the ire of Taxpayers for Common Sense spokesperson David Ellis, who argues the money could be better spent elsewhere.
“It’s preposterous to think that these are all in the public domain for the art-enjoying public to review the merits of portraiture,” he told the right-of-center news source FrontPageMag.com. “It’s about stroking egos.” Much to ARTINFO’s delight, Ellis’s words appeared on the site beside the celebrated works of “Painter of Pancakes” Dan Lacey. We’re happy to join them.
The list includes an array of portraits whose commissions ran in the range of $20-40,000. According to the Post, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s likeness cost $40,000, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley’s portrait cost $41,200, and an oil painting of Agriculture Department Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack cost $22,500.
Taxpayers Protection Alliance president David Williams doesn’t see the point. “It’s not like people are going to be lining up for an exhibit, ‘HUD Secretaries Through the Years,’” he told the Post. “And just because it’s a Washington tradition doesn’t mean they have to keep doing it.”
Readers may recognize Williams as a regular panelist on cable news programming who made headlines earlier this year when he was featured in the documentary, “Museum of Government Waste,” which sought to expose the excesses of government earmarks and pet projects.
This past spring, the producers of the film went through the motions to obtain government funding to build a real Museum of Government Waste, in an apparent attempt to be included in The Onion’s news feed.
— Reid Singer
(Image: Dan Lacey, “Portrait Painting Of President Barack Obama With His Head In The Clouds And A Pancake On His Forehead,” 2012. Courtesy the artist.)