Stroke of Genius? Congressman’s EGO Act Would Ban Expensive Oil Portraits

The Eliminating Government-Funded Oil-Painting (EGO) Act would stop taxpayer-funded portraits.

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House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio participates in a ceremonial swearing in with Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio participates in a ceremonial swearing in with Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

If Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., has his way, taxpayer-funded oil paintings that commemorate federal officials – some at $40,000 a pop – will soon be a thing of the past. Cassidy has introduced an aptly-named Eliminating Government-Funded Oil-Painting, or "EGO" Act, which would prevent tax dollars from funding expensive official portraits at a time when the U.S. is facing a trillion-dollar deficit.

"Wouldn't it bug you if the federal government was spending $40,000 on oil paintings when everyone is tightening their belt?" Cassidy tells Whispers. "It reminds me of that picture of Louis the Sun King in all his regality, and you're aware there are people in France who are so destitute, and yet he's there in those clothes."

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According to the Washington Times, a recent commemorative portrait of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson cost $40,000, while taxpayers paid $20,000 for a painting of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. A letter from Cassidy to his colleagues about the legislation says NASA commissioned a portrait of former Administrator Daniel S. Golden for a hefty $25,000.

"There is a sense of imperial Washington... and it's maddening," says Cassidy. "This just got into my craw."

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