Dave Gonigam

And now, a perk of government “service” that hadn’t previously occurred to us — being immortalized in oils.

“Multiple agencies have quietly commissioned artists to paint official portraits of Cabinet secretaries and other top appointees,” reports The Washington Times. After combing through scads of records, the paper concludes the government has forked over at least $180,000 for this purpose since last year.

The Environmental Protection Agency appears especially fond of these portraits. Current administrator Lisa Jackson’s portrait cost $40,000. Her Bush-era predecessor Stephen Johnson’s cost $30,000.

Recently, the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent $19,500 for a portrait of former HUD secretary Steve Preston — appointed to fill the final seven months of Bush’s term. It will hang on the 10th floor of HUD headquarters — in a work area, out of public view.

Steve Preston: Barely more famous than you are,
but he has an oil portrait and you don’t.

“These are done for future generations to see how we live now, and it’s really a tribute as well as part of a person’s legacy,” says Ann Fader, gamely defending the practice. She’s president of an outfit called Portrait Consultants, “which represents portrait artists,” as the Times puts it.

“It’s a tremendous privilege,” she adds, “to paint a portrait of somebody as accomplished as these people.”

At least as tremendous as your privilege of paying for it, to be sure…

Cheers,
Dave Gonigam

The preceding article was excerpted from Agora Finacial’s 5 Min. Forecast. To read the entire episode, please feel free to do so here.

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam has been managing editor of The 5 Min. Forecast since September 2010. Before joining the research and writing team at Agora Financial in 2007, he worked for 20 years as an Emmy award-winning television news producer.

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