Taxpayers' Money Spent on Portraits

In the past two years almost $400,000 has been spent by government.
2:04 | 03/04/13

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Transcript for Taxpayers' Money Spent on Portraits
story, we're back in washington, on the first full day after the $85 billion in budget cuts kicked in. Some members of congress have said it's time for all of us to tighten our belts. But abc's david kerley has been on the lookout. Tonight, it's our "washington watchdog." Reporter: They are iconic. Washington, jefferson, franklin. Oil on canvas portraits. But ed schafer? Remember him? The 29th agriculture secretary? Well, you paid for his painting. The latest for lisa jackson, the outgoing epa administrator. A $38,000 portrait. That's just 10 grand lessn what the average american makes in an entire year. How about $41,000 for the air force secrary? And $22,000 for a commerce secretary who served president obama for only eight months. We found, in the past two year alone, almost $400,000 spent on portraits. We wanted to show you some of those portraits that you paid for. But the white house wouldn't allow our camera to go into any federal buildings to see those paintings. Surprisingly, some of the oil portraits are commissioned while sectarians are still serving. 22,000 for agriculture secretary tom vilsack, who we asked -- is it time that we stop doing oil portraits of former secretaries? You know --re are so many questions I'd be happy to answer about our budget. I just think that's a really small ball kind of question. Reporter: Small ball? It just shows how washington has just become immune to the cost of things. 20,000 on a portrait? That's real money and that's real waste. Reporter: Today, the white house told us they're spending less on portraits than previous administrations. But what about saving even more? A 21st century alternative. Digital photographs printed o canvas. We took a shot and then we went to our local krcostco. A week later -- not bad. David kerley, abc news, washington. It can go on the wall. And it is canvas.

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