in Houston, Texas
Justice Department’s $16 muffins, $76 lunches pegged by auditors; DOJ conference spending jumps from $47.8 million to $73.3 million annually
Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011, 01:40PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
beef Wellington

If you thought the $16 muffins at the Department of Justice were delicious, wait until you try the currant scones with the $100 bill baked into them at the Treasury Department.

We josh, but only a little. Giving our debt Superheroes a ridiculously easy place to start, auditors for the Justice Department’s Inspector General found those muffins and $73.3 million more in spending on conferences alone in 2009, according to a story by Bloomberg News.

“Some conferences featured costly meals, refreshments, and themed breaks that we believe were indicative of wasteful or extravagant spending,” the inspector general’s report said.

Conference spending by the Justice Department jumped from $47.8 million the previous year, according to the report. And no wonder with Cracker Jack, popcorn and candy bar breaks costing $32 a person, lunches for $76, and those cute little beef Wellington appetizers at $7.32 apiece.

These findings came from a review of just 10 conferences held between 2007 and 2009 and billed to taxpayers at a cost of $4.4 million. The 10 were selected based on a preliminary review of three dozen events, including a $540,000 conference in Grapevine and a $40,000 event in Dallas.
Although the Justice Department in 2008 established policies intended to curb the spending, inspectors found conference planners got around the limits by using funding from various Justice Department agencies.

Imagine what inspectors general might find in a small sampling of conferences hosted by all of our federal agencies. The $30 dry ethanol martinis at the Department of Agriculture and the $95 8-ounce bison tenderloin at the National Park Service. We’d recommend the $200 Almas caviar seized by our very own Department of Homeland Security customs agents, but it comes with a full body scan.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of beef Wellington by flickr user Chris Fleming, used via a Creative Commons license.
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