A Louisiana Republican has introduced a bill to put an end to taxpayers footing the bill for official, commissioned portraits of Washington’s movers and shakers.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Rep. Bill Cassidy introduced the legislation – called the EGO Act, or Eliminating Government-funded Oil Painting – after reports the Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly $40,000 for former administrator Lisa Jackson’s portrait.
"Lisa Jackson can borrow my camera for free," he suggested as an alternative, the paper reported.
"At a time of trillion-dollar deficits, it is not appropriate to spend thousands of dollars on official paintings," Cassidy wrote to the House Appropriations Committee.
"If agency administrators, Cabinet secretaries or members of Congress feel it necessary to commission portraits, they should be responsible for paying for them."
But it could turn out to be a hard tradition to end, as the capital is full of portraits of government officials. And in the case of Elliot Richardson, there are four oil paintings – one for each department he headed in the 1970s, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The prices for the eternal likenesses vary. A portrait of Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary, cost $22,500, according to the paper, while one of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice set taxpayers back by a little more than $50,000.
There are 286 portraits in the House of Representatives’ collection. The portraits there include one of former Ways and Means Committee Chairmen Wilbur Mills, D-Ark., remembered for his liaisons with stripper Fanne Foxe, and Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., who served 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud.
Some lawmakers pay for their own portraits, which some see as the model for a budget-conscious Congress.
"I can't see why Cabinet officials can't do what I did," former House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told the Los Angeles Times in an interview, suggesting that they could use private donations to fund their portraits.