Feds Spend $30,500 On Portrait Of An Ag Secretary Who Served Less Than A Year

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Former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer, a good friend of mine and some-time contributor to this blog, recently had his official portrait hung in Washington DC commemorating his time spent as the Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush.

The cost? $30,500. For a cabinet member who served less than a year. Schafer himself, while holding to a tradition which dates back to Lincoln’s days, questions the cost:

“They are way too expensive in my opinion,” said Schafer, a Republican. “I was like, ‘Can’t we get a cheaper artist? Could we get somebody who’s up and coming?’ ”

Schafer said he was told a private foundation pays for the portraits of agriculture secretaries but said he was not able to confirm that.

To pint a finer point on this absurdity, consider that President Obama’s cabinet has 21 members. Assuming an average cost of $35,000 for each portrait (former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s portrait cost over $40,000) we’re soon talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Given that cabinet members come and go over the years of a President’s administration, we’re now looking at millions of dollars for official portraits for cabinet members who, while important officeholders, are really just footnotes in history.

To be sure, a few million bucks on portraits is a rounding error in the federal budget, but a few million here and a few million there and pretty soon we’re talking about real money.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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