Last week, President Trump signed the Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting Act (EGO Act) that bans federal agencies from using taxpayer dollars to pay for portrait paintings of Federal officials. The ban encompasses all federal employees including the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, heads of federal agencies, or any office in the legislative branch.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who introduced the EGO Act celebrated saying, “I came to Congress to cut wasteful spending. Our debt is over $20 trillion. There’s no excuse for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paintings of government officials.” Senator Cassidy has championed this cause in both the House and Senate, adding a provision in a 2014 appropriations bill that temporarily banned taxpayer funded portraits. Now, the EGO Act makes the ban permanent.
A ban similar to Cassidy’s was first proposed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Pursuit founder and then-Senator Tom Coburn days before the release of his 2013 Wastebook. The Shaheen/Coburn bill would have “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.” But the EGO Act goes one step further, banning all taxpayer funded portraits.
According to the 2013 Wastebook, “federal agencies have commissioned dozens of oil paintings to immortalize their upper-level management for the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, enough to raise dozens families over the poverty level.” Coburn emphasized in a press release that “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.”
In the years leading up to the temporary ban (2010-2013), federal agencies spent more than $400,000 on portraits displayed in agency buildings. According to Politico, these portraits can cost anywhere from $19,000 to $50,000.
Any agency head or federal official wishing to be immortalized by portrait must now obtain private funding. Past presidents have already been following this practice as President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama’s portraits were commissioned by private benefactors.
The EGO Act a great step to ensure our tax dollars are spent wisely. Next up, Congress will need to pass the EGDS Act (Eliminating Government-funded Dining Sets), the EGPJ Act (Eliminating Government-funded Private Jets), the EGMJT Act (Eliminating Government-funded Military Jet Travel), the EGSPB Act (Eliminating Government-funded Soundproof Phone Booths), the EGEV Act (Eliminating Government-funded European Vacations), and the EG$TD Act (Eliminating Government-funded Thousand-dollar Doors).