Justice Dept. Conference Expenses…$16 for a Muffin, $5 for a Meatball

Thursday, September 22, 2011
The U.S. Department of Justice paid what might be considered unlawful prices for food at agency conferences over a two-year period, according to the department’s inspector general.
After reviewing food arrangements from 2007 to 2009, the IG concluded that the Justice Department had been “extravagant and potentially wasteful” with its spending.
At the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s 2009 Legal Training Conference in Washington, D.C., the Justice Department was charged $16.80 per muffin and $9.60 for each cookie it served. At the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s AMBER Alert Conference it paid $5.57 per can of soda and $5.20 for an eight-ounce cup of coffee. The Office on Violence Against Woman managed to top this, spending $8.24 for same size cup of coffee at their Enhancing Judicial Skills Workshop. At another unnamed event a “DOJ component” forked out almost $5 for individual Swedish meatballs.
The department responded to the criticism by insisting it had brought such spending under better control in 2010 and 2011, which were outside the scope of the audit.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Update: In October, the Justice Department’s Inspector General issued a revised report that said the department did not pay $16 per muffin.
Audit of Department of Justice Conference Planning and Food and Beverage Costs (U.S. Department of Justice, Inspector General) (pdf)
$16 Muffins, and Taxpayers Pick Up the Tab (by Charlie Savage, New York Times)
The Great $16 Muffin Myth (by Kevin Drum, Mother Jones)


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