Great news: Audit reveals Justice Department paid $16 for muffins

Ridiculous. Even in Manhattan, a muffin will only run you — what? 13, 14 bucks?

I know you’re angry, but don’t forget that DOJ made some extra cash this year selling AK-47s to Mexican drug cartels. Those muffins are paid for, dude.

U.S. Justice Department agencies spent too much for food at conferences, in one case serving $16 muffins and in another dishing out beef Wellington appetizers that cost $7.32 per serving, an audit found…

The inspector general reviewed a sample of 10 Justice Department conferences held between October 2007 and September 2009 at a cost of $4.4 million, a period that included the administrations of Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama. The Justice Department spent $73.3 million on conferences in fiscal 2009, compared with $47.8 million a year earlier, according to the report.

The muffins were served at an August 2009 conference of the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the beef Wellington was offered at a February 2008 meeting hosted by the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. A March 2009 conference of the Office on Violence Against Women served Cracker Jack, popcorn and candy bars at a single break, costing $32 per person, according to the report.

The report is a follow-up to one from 2007 that found the Justice Department had few controls to limit the costs of conference planning, food and beverages. That audit cited a reception that included Swedish meatballs costing $5 apiece.

Lots more at the Atlantic, which flags another data point from the same report pegging the average cost of a soda at one conference at $5.57. That’s a fair price if you’re in a stadium watching football, less so if you’re in a ballroom watching Eric Holder sweat while he ducks questions about who knew what vis-a-vis Operation Fast & Furious. Pass the link along to your friends because the sad truth is that stories about wasteful spending on a relatively penny-ante scale like this are more useful in raising public ire than reports about another umpteen billion lost in whatever the latest federal boondoggle is. Earmarks work the same way, in fact: They’re a tiny sliver of the budget but because they involve individual projects whose worth the average voter can kinda sorta gauge, they’re more likely to make people angry than oceans of cash lost in the cracks of some abstract federal service. Case in point: Read this. How angry are you now?

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