- NYT’s David Brooks: Obama has ‘manhood problem’ in Middle East
- Ted Cruz thanks Obama for denying visas to terrorists
- Survivors recall chaos, fear in Everest avalanche
- General Mills apologizes for ‘right to sue’ confusion, reverses policy
- Dealer wanted in U.S. for art fraud nabbed in Spain
- Easter morning delivery for space station
- Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76
- Probe could complicate Rick Perry’s prospects
- Ukraine, Russia trade blame for eastern shootout
- Obamas head to church on Easter morning
Running up the tab: State Dept. bought $180,000 in liquor before shutdown
In September, the final month of the fiscal year, the State Department spent about $180,000 — and racked up a total of more than $400,000 for the whole year, three times the entire liquor tab for all of 2008.
The liquor bill, split among purchase orders placed at embassies around the world, included some major last-minute pre-shutdown splurges:
• $5,625 in “gratuity wine” at the embassy in Rio de Janeiro on Sept. 29, followed by $5,925 in “gratuity whiskey” on the day the shutdown began.
• $22,416 in wine at the embassy in Tokyo.
• $15,900 in bourbon and whiskey in Moscow.
U.S. embassies have long served alcohol at diplomatic events under Democratic and Republican administrations alike — and in good economic times as well as bad.
But the booze bill has risen sharply each year since 2008, according to the federal government’s procurement database, which includes a specific code enabling the public to track alcoholic beverage purchase orders.
Those records show the State Department bought $415,000 worth of alcohol in fiscal 2012, which was 25 percent more than the $331,000 spent in 2011 and more than triple the $118,000 spent in 2008.
Saving a few hundred thousand dollars won’t do much to reduce the government’s $17 trillion debt, but any increase in taxpayer dollars spent on wine and whiskey deserves closer scrutiny in tough fiscal times, said Dave Williams, president of the nonprofit Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a watchdog group.
The department went on a buying binge just before the partial federal government shutdown and in the final days of the fiscal year, when many federal agencies try to spend all of the money in their budgets or risk exposing areas for congressional cuts.
“This is what taxpayers don’t understand,” Mr. Williams said. “You have a looming government shutdown but then you have a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ mentality where someone is spending tens of thousands of dollars because they have to.
“If you’re a family or a business and you’re getting ready for a potential loss of revenue, the first thing you do is get rid of the parties,” he said. “It’s symbolic.”
In a statement to The Times, a State Department representative said “it would be an oversimplification to look at a subset of purchases made by embassies overseas and draw a conclusion about the department’s operational priorities at the time.”
Officials also said, as they did in 2010 when The Times inquired about a sharp increase in alcohol spending, that funds are spent for representational purposes.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
- HHS nominee Sylvia Burwell entangled in MetLife lawsuit
- HHS nominee got $1.2M at 'zero' salary job at Wal-Mart
- Federal workers watch 'Star Trek' on clock
- Sen. Menendez pal Salomon Melgen collected $20 million from Medicare
- U.S. picks up $700 million tab for coalition's food and laundry in Afghanistan
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- EXCLUSIVE: FBI blocked in corruption probe involving Sens. Reid, Lee
- Tactical advantage: Russian military shows off impressive new gear
- USAID documents cite Hillary Clinton in chaos of Afghan aid
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Yelp.com's ethics questioned
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.