All told, the report stated, from 2010 to 2013 more than $400,000 was spent on portraits displayed in agency buildings, "often in secure locations that are not open to the public."
But the federal government spent an estimated $4 trillion in fiscal year 2017 alone. The expenditure on portraits represents a fraction of that total so small it would be very difficult to clearly represent here. A single F-35 fighter jet costs about 250 times as much as all of the portraits bought during that three-year span, combined.
And portraits have not been the only source of concern for onlookers monitoring extravagant spending. Current HUD Secretary Ben Carson was called before a House committee earlier this month to explain the decision to buy a $31,000 dining room set for his office.
Outgoing Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has attracted scrutiny from his department's inspector general for an expensive overseas trip with his wife at taxpayer expense.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price already resigned from Trump's cabinet for reportedly using $400,000 of taxpayer money — or roughly 13 official portraits, according to the average price listed in the report — on private charter planes. He said he would pay a portion of that sum back.
But for backers of the EGO Act, ending the long tradition of taxpayer-funded official portraits means more than the numbers: they say it carries symbolic weight, as well.
"The expensive practice has a long history of criticism dating back to at least the Carter Administration," the 2017 committee report says. "Although portraits are a minor piece of the Federal budget, every dollar the government spends on vanity projects for federal officials is a dollar that is not spent improving the lives of everyday Americans."
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