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As former cabinet official portraits are unveiled, Shaheen highlights legislation to rein in government spending

(Washington, DC) – As yet another taxpayer-funded portrait of a former cabinet is being unveiled this morning, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is renewing her call to pass bipartisan legislation to rein in excessive spending on these types of paintings of government officials.

Shaheen’s bipartisan bill, the Responsible Use of Taxpayer Dollars for Portraits Act, would put a cap on the amount of taxpayer support on oil paintings of public officials and limit the practice to those officials in the line of succession for the presidency.  The portrait unveiling today for former Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is estimated to have cost taxpayers $30,500, according to the Washington Post, ranking in excess of the $20,000 cap set by the bipartisan legislation.

“With all due respect to former Secretary Chertoff and his service, this is exactly the type of government spending our country can do without,” Shaheen said. “The federal government should pay for these types of portraits in a way that protects taxpayers instead of wasting their money.”

“There’s bipartisan support to stop this type of government spending and we should act immediately. Taxpayers shouldn’t pick up the tab for a portrait that costs more than many hardworking taxpayers make in a year,” Shaheen added.

Restrictions on the practice were incorporated into this year’s appropriations bill, preventing taxpayer support for portraits for Fiscal Year 2014. The cap, however, only applies to FY2014 and would not become permanent without separate legislation, such as the bipartisan Responsible Use of Taxpayer Dollars for Portraits Act.

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.