Coin for Coins: Cause of Action Finds Federal Agencies in Violation of Executive Order on Spending

Taxpayer Dollars Purchased iPods, Plaques, Yo-Yos and Coins 

WASHINGTON – Federal government accountability group Cause of Action (CoA) today released findings of direct violations of President Obama’s order for agencies to limit spending on promotional items. A six month investigation reveals a pattern of wasteful spending across nine specific federal agency offices that are catalogued in Coin for Coins: Federal Agency Spending on Promotional and Commemorative Items, a report released today.

In November 2011, President Obama advised federal agencies through the Executive Order on Promoting Efficient Spending (EO 13589) that “[a]gencies should limit the purchase of promotional items (e.g., plaques, clothing and commemorative items), in particular where they are not cost-effective.”

Some of the most egregious examples of spending include:

  • One United States Department of Agriculture office spent $38,870 on GPS systems, Nook 3G digital readers, Apple iPods, and Nikon Coolpix cameras for staff.
  • Department of Justice COPS spent over $12,000 on commemorative items for a single conference.
  • Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service spent over $86,000 on commemorative items between 2009 and 2012.

Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, highlights how this pattern of spending is a symptom of a larger problem in Washington:

Our investigation shows that a federal government culture of waste, fraud and mismanagement remains an unchecked liability throughout federal agencies. A cavalier attitude toward the efficient use of tax dollars permeates the executive branch. While some agencies track their spending, revealing patterns of waste, others don’t even bother to document it. The Department of Defense, with one of the largest budgets, informed Cause of Action that it has no means of tracking promotional spending, rendering accountability impossible. Just in the past year we’ve seen reports of the Government Services Administration and Veterans Affairs conference spending scandals, Secretary Sebelius’s Hatch Act violations, and conflict of interest violations by NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon.  It is clear that those in the current Administration with the responsibility to steward taxpayer dollars, the President included, are not taking their jobs, nor a commitment to ethics and transparency, seriously.

Following the April, 2012 GSA spending scandal report from the GSA Inspector General, CoA submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to 32 federal agency offices demanding production of information concerning commemorative awards that have been paid for by taxpayer dollars.

Coin for Coins: Federal Agency Spending on Promotional and Commemorative Items analyzes spending from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), OIG, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), United States Department of the Interior (DOI), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service (FS) Alaska Region, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service (FS) Southwestern Region, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rural Development (RD), Department of Energy (DOE), OIG, and the United States Department of Defense.

About Cause of Action:

Cause of Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses investigative, legal, and communications tools to educate the public on how government accountability and transparency protects taxpayer interests and economic opportunity. For more information, visit www.causeofaction.org

This release was updated on October 11, 2012. The following sentences that appeared in the original release have been removed:

“CoA’s initial investigation into nine agency offices documents $1,123,118 spent on items such as yo-yos, water bottles, pens, trophies, and other awards.”

“Department of Homeland Security OIG offices spent nearly $700,000 on awards in fiscal year 2010.”

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  1. [...] unchecked liability throughout federal agencies,” Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein said in a press release. “A cavalier attitude toward the efficient use of tax dollars permeates the [...]

  2. [...] “Our investigation shows that a federal government culture of waste, fraud and mismanagement remains an unchecked liability throughout federal agencies. A cavalier attitude toward the efficient use of tax dollars permeates the executive branch,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, in a press release. [...]