Argentina Hits The Books
Project Cost: $31,500
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Argentina: $83 Million
The U.S. Embassy hosted a booth display at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair – undoubtedly a great way to reach a large audience. Though that reach came at a hefty price: $31,500. When looking at display price options for the London Book Fair – we found the most expensive exhibit cost about $3,500. The Embassy ran up a tab about 10 times that price.
Australia’s Festivals Down Under
Project Cost: $210,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Australia: $452 Million
The Australian State Department loves to throw a party. Several actually. At least $210,000 of tax dollars supported an eclectic set of 20 jazz, film, music and arts festivals in Australia over the last two years. This includes $8000 to support the Parkes Elvis Festival, which attracts 25,000 Elvis enthusiasts who can take the 6-hour Blue Suede express to arrive, an Alice in Wonderland Exhibition, and an international film festival that includes a 24-hour Nic Cage-athon. Perhaps the most bizarre is the $10,000 to support Dark Mofo 2018, described as “goth spring break” and whose event leaders said that provocation was “part of Mona’s DNA.” These provocations include a 1500-person nude swim and a controversial upside-down cross. The Trump administration also supported the performance of a “resistance” artist that is part of Black Quantum Futurism, which is a “a new approach to living and experiencing reality by way of the manipulation of space-time in order to see into possible futures, and/or collapse space-time into a desired future in order to bring about that future’s reality.”
Boozy Belgian & Pricey Art
Project Cost: $173,576
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Belgium: $430 Million
Since the beginning of 2017, the Belgium State Department has spent at least $124,076 on booze. Some highlights include $4465 worth of Jack Daniels for US NATO and $13,000 for alcohol at 4th of July events. The person in charge of the artwork may have partaken when they decided to spend $49,500 to display a painting called “The Pursuit of Some Sort of Absolute World View” for 11 months. Unclear if that painting is symbolic of our foreign policy strategy.
Baking in Brazil
Project Cost: $42,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Brazil: $158 Million
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched the #USFoodExperience campaign, which featured the two-time winner of Food Network’s Chopped, James Briscione. The campaign promoted six culinary regions of the United States, which was highlighted by Briscione preparing a meal featuring Alaska sockeye salmon and halibut. Briscione also visited well-known bakeries and restaurants and “lectured masterclasses to students of gastronomy courses” in Brazil to promote the initiative. According to USASpending, the USDA spent $42,000 on the endeavor.
Venti Colombian Coffee Subsidy
Project Cost: $2,000,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Colombia: $592 Million
Over the last four years, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided Starbucks with $2 million to support its Colombia Yield Improvement Project. Yes, the Starbucks that made $22 billion in revenue in 2017. Colombia is world’s third largest supplier of coffee beans and a major supplier for Starbucks for 40 years. After a 33 percent drop in yields in 2008, Starbucks launched a farmer support center in Colombia to stem the “crisis” and boost yield(i.e. supply for Starbucks). In 2013, the federal government stepped in to partner with Starbucks on the effort, awarding $2 million in federal grants to Starbucks to support the program. While boosting farmer education, sustainability, and crop yields is undoubtedly great for Colombian farmers, it’s unclear how providing a $67 billion company that was already incentivized to do so is in the best interest of taxpayers.
High Rent in Costa Rica
Project Cost: $12,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Costa Rica: $239 Million
To honor the 130th anniversary of the birth of Eugene O’Neill, the theatre in Costa Rica with his namesake is sponsoring a production of the rock musical, Rent. The play will be put on by students at the United World College in Costa Rica and will be sponsored by the Costa Rican North American Cultural Center – an organization to bridge relations between the US and Costa Rica (this is one of 16 grants totaling $361,000 the organization has received since 2015). To recap, in case you’re confused: $12,000 American tax dollars will be used in Costa Rica to honor the 130th birthday of an American playwright by producing an unrelated 1990’s American Broadway musical. Got it.
Croatian Shark Tank
Project Cost: $17,585
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Croatia: $101 Million
A venture capital competition called Start Up Camp got a boost from a $17,585 grant from the State Department. It’s a 5-day camp that “provides extraordinary mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and investors from Croatia and USA.” A panel of venture capitalists, angel investors, and businessmen evaluate pitches and can choose to invest in presented projects. So far, 11 teams have received a total of $2.1 million in investments. While we do not wish to knock the Startup Camp, as it’s a great idea to connect entrepreneurs and investors. However, the investors and perhaps the Croatian government, should pick up the tab.
Project Cost: $8,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Denmark: $201,000,000
The State Department paid to send members of the Upright Citizens Brigade – a famous New York improv comedy troupe that hails Amy Poehler as an alum – to perform opening night at Improv Comedy Copenhagen. Opening night was an exclusive, invite-only affair that not only featured performances from the Upright Citizens Brigade, but also the American ambassador to Denmark. Quick: do a scene that wastes $8000 tax dollars.
Employment in Egypt
Project Cost: $130,000,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Egypt: $230,000,000
In 2013, Congress provided $300 million in seed funding for the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund (EAEF). Its goal was to “develop the Egyptian private sector, promote financial inclusion, and create jobs for Egyptians.” Five years later, the EAEF has invested $130 million of the allotted amount in four private companies and three investment funds. According to the EAEF, these funds have created over 700 Egyptian jobs or $428,571 per job created. Maybe not the best bang for the buck. More troublesome is the opacity of the organization’s expenses. While choosing to leave out financial statements in the most recent annual report, a prior year’s annual report showed $4 million in expenses, including $2.3 million in management fees for Lorax, the management company working the investments.
Money Mural in London
Project Cost: $440,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in U.K.: $1.9 Billion
The new US Embassy building in London opened this winter. It’s about to get adorned with an expensive, $440,000 mural that’s, well, we’ll let you take a look. The contract was awarded without competition to Miotto Mosaic Art Studios in Carmel, New York and the artist is the same one that made a criticized $1 million granite sculpture in 2013 for the London Embassy. The art budget for federal buildings is capped at .5% of the construction cost. Given the enormous $1 billion price tag for the London Embassy, it’s no wonder they have room to splurge on multi-color murals. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. While the artwork may be abstract, the nearly half-million tax dollars is very much real.
France Says Yes Oui Can!
Project Cost: $110,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in France: $631 Million
The State Department funds a sailing and entrepreneurship summer camp called “Yes Oui Can,” which is open to 18-25 year olds that live in France. While the name of the program is a play on President Obama’s iconic campaign slogan, the Trump administration is carrying on the funding of the program. They spent $50,000 to support the 2017 camp and will allocate another $50,000 to support the 2018 camp. They are also contributing $10,000 to build an alumni group. One wonders when the name will change to Make Francois Genial Encore (Make France Great Again).
German Fake News
Project Cost: $59,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Germany: $3.4 Billion
In May, the State Department awarded Cultural Vistas a $59,000 grant for a journalism fellowship program that “will focus on political coverage in the U.S. and Germany and analyze the trend of ‘fake news’.” The funds will fund 8 American and 8 German journalism students to spend a week in Washington DC and New York to exchange ideas and analyze ways “disinformation is seen in the media of both countries.” It is unclear which definition of “fake news” the program will use.
Christianity in Icelandic Middle Ages
Project Cost: $683,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Iceland: $10.7 Million
The National Science Foundation, our nation’s premier scientific research agency, is studying the “connections between the adoption of Christian practices and the development of political power in Iceland between AD 870 and 1300.” To do this analysis, the study will look at the settlement history and Christian practices of 13 farms in an area in northern Iceland. This grant is funded through NSF’s Arctic Social Science program.
Pursuit’s criteria for the World Cup of Waste tournament is an entry on USASpening.gov during fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Iran did not have any notable expenditures during this time period. Note, we are aware of the large cash payment to Iran under the Obama administration. Though controversial, it is not included in the tournament.
Indy500 Car Shipped to Japan
Project Cost: $20,070
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Japan: $3.9 Billion
The American Embassy in Tokyo held a reception to honor Takuma Sato, the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500. Apparently, the only way to truly recognize this historic occasion was to have the actual Indy car at the event – at cost of $6,070 in shipping. According to USASpending, the catering for the event cost another $14,000. Congratulations to Mr. Sato for burning rubber. Congratulation to the Japanese embassy for burning tax dollars.
Korean Trump Effect
Project Cost: $13,800
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in South Korea: $2.3 Billion
Last year, the State Department spent $13,800 to support a conference entitled the “The Changing Contours of American Identity.” Hosted by the American Studies Association of Korea, the conference aims to address to overarching questions: “How can we critically/historically understand Trump’s America, and how do we respond to it productively?” The Trump administration supporting a symposium on how to respond to the “age of Trump” is quite meta. And wasteful.
Project Cost: $7,725
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Mexico: $1.7 Billion
In an effort to further public diplomacy with Mexico, the State Department sent 3 American football coaches to train 100 – 500 Mexican youth football coaches on coaching methodology and coaching philosophy, costing taxpayers $7,725 for the coaching clinic.
Project Cost: $14,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Morocco: $503 Million
NFL (Nigerian Football League)
Project Cost: $21,083
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Nigeria: $885 Million
Last year marked the first year of the Zaria, Nigerian youth league, funded through a $21,083 U.S. Embassy Public Affairs grant. The league is “focused on developing and empowering Nigeria’s youth,” and the founder of the organization and coach hopes “to play more games next year, acquire more equipment for his players, and perhaps help to start a similar league in southern Nigeria.”
Speak For The (Panamanian) Trees!
Project Cost: $5,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Panama: $133 Million
Ping Pong in Peru
Project Cost: $12,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Peru: $183 Million
Through the State Department’s Public Diplomacy grant, The Monica Liyau Association received $12,000 to implement table tennis in Peru. The goal of the organization is to help underserved youth through the game of ping pong. The organization builds concrete ping pong tables in schools, implements ping pong traning programs, and has a sports scholarship program.
Wizards in Poland
Project Cost: $10,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Poland: $335 Million
NBA fans and those inside the beltway are probably familiar with “The Polish Hammer,” or (now former) Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat. For 10 years Gortat has hosted a youth basketball camp in Poland, but last year taxpayers spent $10,000 helping put on the camp. Gortat made over $12.7 million last season.
Portugal Walk & Talk
Project Cost: $6,840
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Portugal: $217 Million
Studying Lawyers in Russia
Project Cost: $329,000
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Russia: $442 Million
This three-year, $329,000 National Science Foundation grant will study whether recently graduated lawyers are more willing to challenge Putin and the Authoritarian Russian state than ordinary Russian citizens.
Saudi Singing and Beat Boxing
Project Cost: $23,335
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Saudi Arabia: $1.6 Billion
Swaying in Senegal
Project Cost: $11,467
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Senegal: $270 Million
The Josef & Anni Albers Foundation, founded in 1971, is a not-for-profit organization to further “the revelation and evocation of vision through art.” Last year the foundation received over $11,467 to send U.S. dancers and choreographers to Senegal for an American dance festival.
Lego Democracy: Serbian Edition
Project Cost: $14,780
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Senegal: $46 Million
This summer the Lego community of Serbia will build a Lego mosaic of a 1915 poster to promote the 100-year anniversary of US-Serbian relations. The project, funded through the State Department’s Public Diplomacy Program, will cost over $14,780 to complete.
Spaces in Spain
Project Cost: $7,230
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Spain: $703 Million
The State Department’s Public Diplomacy Program spent over $7,230 to help furnish a section of a Barcelona library. The recipient of the funds, The American Space Barcelona, is a program that promotes “cultural exchange and dialogue between Barcelona and the United States.”
Project Cost: $23,356
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Sweden: $143 Million
Last year, the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden was granted over $23,356 through the State Department’s Public Diplomacy Program for a venue rental, promotional materials, decorations, giveaways, and video production and editing.
Swamp in Switzerland
Project Cost: $8,300
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Switzerland: $5.1 Billion
Project Cost: $19,992
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Switzerland: $126 Million
Ur On Stage in Uruguay
Project Cost: $44,100
Total FY17-18 U.S. Spending in Uruguay: $124 Million
Ur On Stage in Uruguay – The State Department spent $44,100 to purchase 197 seats and a light controller at a theatre in Uruguay.