Picture This: Tax Dollars May Again Fund Official Portraits

George W. Bush's official portrait was unveiled in March 2012. George W. Bush's official portrait was unveiled in March 2012. Charles Dharapak/AP file photo

It’s being called a more “responsible” use of federal dollars for commemorative portraits of government officials. At least, that’s the name of the bill.

Turns out, the much-ballyhooed ban on taxpayer-funded portraits of the president and other public officials that passed earlier this year was not permanent. The omnibus fiscal 2014 spending bill did deny funds for commemorative portraits—but just for the fiscal year.

On Wednesday, however, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is set to consider legislation to completely stop the practice. Well, for most portraits, anyway.

The Bipartisan Responsible Use of Taxpayer Dollars for Portraits Act, pushed by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would permanently cap the amount of taxpayer expenditures for such portraits at $20,000. And the bill would limit even that amount to portraits of people in the official line of succession to the presidency, such as the vice president, House speaker, president pro tem of the Senate, secretary of State, and other top officials in executive departments.

“There’s no reason to continue excessive taxpayer spending on oil paintings of government officials,” Shaheen said Monday in a statement.

Most members of Congress and other executive-branch agency heads would not qualify.

The bill would not, however, ban the use of nonfederal funds to help pay for the paintings if the costs exceed $20,000.

Controversy over use of taxpayer dollars for commemorative portraits has existed for years. But amid deficits and spending cuts, the issue has gained more attention. For instance, a review by The Washington Times found that the federal government spent $180,000 on official portraits in 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly $40,000 on a portrait of then-Administrator Lisa Jackson; the Air Force spent $41,200 on a portrait of then-Secretary Michael Donley; and the Agriculture Department spent $22,500 on a portrait of Secretary Tom Vilsack, according to The Times.

“We should pay for these types of portraits in a way that protects taxpayers instead of wasting their money,” Shaheen said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.