Even in this time of partisan tumult, two endeavors seemingly unite the Grand Old Party: cutting wasteful spending and fighting ’90s culture wars. The Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz from Utah’s third district has found a novel way to combine these traditional conservative interests.
The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform launched a wide-ranging probe this week to find out how much money the federal government is spending on art. Chaffetz, the chair of the committee, signed a letter dated March 21 and addressed to 25 different agency leaders, including every cabinet-level secretary.
“Art collections in federal buildings bring creative and artistic beauty to public spaces, and create attractive work environments for federal employees and the public that they serve,” it reads. “These taxpayer funded art programs, however, raise the potential for wasteful spending.”
How much wasteful spending, exactly, is something Chaffetz has recently been on a mission to find out. House Oversight is asking these 25 agencies to identify every artwork they possess, “including, but not limited to, paintings, mural and easel, photographs, prints, sculptures, artifacts, electronic-based artworks, textiles, ceramics, and stained glass.” The letter seeks to discover how much each agency and department has spent on artworks and artifacts, insurance premiums, contracts, and other related purchase since 2006 (which is, incidentally, the year the Democratic Party swept both houses of Congress). The inquiry further seeks details about the number of employees involved in managing and preserving these collections. By April 4, when these documents are due to be delivered, Congress will have a detailed register of the nation's federal artworks.