Bipartisan Bill Aims to Cut Official Portrait Spending

Credit: Zenon EvansCredit: Zenon EvansPerhaps the cupboard isn't totally bare... yet. Painted portraits for government officials may be a small fraction of federal spending, but a bipartisan bill aims to cut back how much the feds can spend on these self-indulgent depictions.

The Responsible Use of Taxpayer Dollars for Portraits Act "would put a cap on the amount of taxpayer support for the portraits and limit the practice to those officials in the line of succession for the presidency,” explains a press release.

The sponsors of the bill, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen  (D-N.H.), and Tom Coburn, (R-Okla.) expressed their views on the matter. Fox reports:

“At a time when vital services and programs are facing cuts, we need to be looking at every way we can stop excessive spending practices in Washington,” Shaheen said.

Coburn says their bill is a way to rein in excess spending in Washington, and ensure taxpayers are not paying for unnecessary projects.

“Hardworking taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for lavish official portraits, especially when government officials spend more on paintings of themselves than some Americans make in a year,” Coburn said.

If this bill passes, spending on the paintings would be capped at $20,000 per portrait. 

How much do these lavish works of art normally cost?

Credit: Zenon EvansCredit: Zenon Evans

Up to “$50,000 apiece and… most of the contracts [are] awarded with no competitive bidding process,” according to the Washington Post. Another report by the Post found that “the federal government spent $180,000 last year on portraits, including paintings of non-Cabinet officials, such as former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, that cost at least $40,000 apiece.”

An ABC News article from earlier this year calculates that in a two-years span, the Obama administration spent nearly $400,000 on portraits.

As an added bonus, the bill would only allow those in line for the presidency will have the opportunity to commit their faces to canvas with taxpayer dollars.

This means we will still be subject to monarchical tributes to patron President Obama, Rubens' rendition of VP Joe Biden, a Munch masterpiece with the likeness of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), Sen. Leahy (D-Vt.) in the impressionistic pastels of Degas, and a smattering of cubist fragments showing all the terribly incomprehensible sides of the cabinet. Maybe they could take a page out of former-President Bush's book and paint some selfies instead.

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  • ||

    That portrait of Louis XIV has always fascinated me, with his awesome sword being perhaps the biggest reason.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Are you sure it's not the way his ballet tights accentuate the feminine shapeliness of his legs?

  • ||

    And his awesome fuck-me boots.

  • Swiss Servator, Alps avast!||

    If only there was some sort of device they could use that could render an image of someone....some sort of device that could actually record such a picture of a person at a single moment in time...

    Nope, has to be painted portraits!

  • ||

    You know who else had an official portrait?

  • Bam!||

    Cosmo Kramer?

  • Zeb||

    Or they could pay for their own damn portraits. I don't think that having a portrait of any kind helps the government to operate any better or more efficiently (from any point of view), so why should we pay for any?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Okay now there's nothing left to cut.

  • Bam!||

    Think of the poor painters who will be out of work! We can't possibly cut it.

  • #||

    Shockingly, Jeanne Shaheen is up for reelection next year and Scott Brown is looking more and more to be the one to challange her.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, that's sort of interesting. Two middle of the road boring people. I think I'll vote for whoever is not one of those two.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, I looked up the potential challengers, and they were all pretty pathetic. That description also now includes Brown.

    If there isn't a libertarian on the card, I may write in my penis.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I heard your penis is a real dick.

  • ||

    Middle of the road, boring sound like good qualities to have in a congresscritter, especially if that translates to 'do nothing'.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    You can't cut portrait spending because then people will wonder why such spending was there in the first place.

  • Aresen||

    I think it should have been called the "Representatives' Act for Portrait Expenses".

  • ||

    A+ on the photos and alt text Zenon.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Wait, is there a way I could get the contract? Granted, my painting abilities are quite limited. . .quite limited, but I have some very innovative ideas for the portrait.

  • ||

    I was just thinking the same thing. Perhaps have them sit wearing one of these;

  • Pro Libertate||

    What, no feces?

  • Agammamon||

    That's what you *paint* with you sicko!

  • eyeroller||

    Increase spending on portraits. The more they sit for portraits, the less time they spend on their jobs, and that's a good thing.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Unfortunately they probably don't sit for these anymore. Guessing that the painter works off of photos these day.

  • creech||

    The Official White House photographers take a million photos a day of Our Glorious Leader and they can't find even one shot that captures his Magnificence???

  • RishJoMo||

    Sounds like a lot of crazy smack to me dude.


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