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The Justice Department's snack 'boondoggle': By the numbers
$16 muffins? $5 per Swedish meatball? Some rather excessive federal spending on conference goodies is drawing plenty of unfriendly scrutiny
This simple meal of coffee and a muffin cost members of the Justice Department attending a 2009 conference a minimum of $20.96.
This simple meal of coffee and a muffin cost members of the Justice Department attending a 2009 conference a minimum of $20.96.
Image Source/Corbis
N

ot since the $640 toilet seats and $434 hammers at the Reagan-era Pentagon has Washington been so atwitter over inflated expenses. According to a new report from the Department of Justice inspector general, the DOJ broke the bank on its conference budget, paying outrageous amounts for meals and snacks during the last year of the Bush administration and first year of the Obama era. Here, a look at the DOJ's food-and-beverage "boondoggle," by the numbers:

$73.3 million
Amount the DOJ spent on conferences in fiscal year 2009

$47.8 million
Amount the DOJ spent on conferences the previous year

$4.4 million
Amount spent on 10 conferences analyzed in the inspector general's audit, from October 2007 to September 2009

$490,000
Amount spend on food at those 10 conferences

$600,000
Amount spent on outside event planners at five of the conferences

20
Typical service fee, in percent, charged to the DOJ by the hotel chains hosting the conferences

$16
Cost per muffin at an August 2009 conference (all prices include fees and tips)

$9.60
Cost of each cookie and brownie at the same conference

$4.96 to $8.24
Cost of an 8-ounce cup of coffee at the conferences

$4.84 to $5.57
Cost of a soda at one event

$32
Cost per participant of a snack break — popcorn, Cracker Jacks, and candy bars — at a March 2009 conference

$5
Cost of each Swedish meatball at a $60,000 DOJ reception, cited in a 2007 audit that warned of lax cost controls

Sources: The AtlanticBloomberg, Justice Department (PDF), Los Angeles TimesMother Jones, Politico, Washington Times

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