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Legislation would protect taxpayers from excessive spending on oil paintings of government officials

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced bipartisan legislation today to rein in excessive spending on oil paintings of government officials. The bipartisan bill 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.

“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. “Official portraits should be done in a way that protects taxpayers, as we do in New Hampshire.”

“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,” Dr. Coburn said. “This bill reins in excessive spending on such portraits and protects taxpayers from funding waste.”

ABC News and The Washington Times have reported that the Obama Administration has spent nearly $400,000 on commissioned portraits of agency directors and Cabinet secretaries over the last two years. According to a 2008 Washington Post study of these contracts, these portraits can cost upwards of $50,000. 

The bipartisan Responsible Use of Taxpayer Dollars for Portraits Act would limit taxpayer support for portraits to $20,000. The bill clarifies that for portraits that cost more than $20,000, other funds may be used. In addition, the legislation would only allow federal funds to be provided for portraits of officials in line for the presidency.