Iowa Senator Calls Out Government Agencies for Wasteful Spending

The “squeal awards,” created by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), will be given to a number of government agencies that reportedly spend too much taxpayer money on unnecessary public relations initiatives.

Ernst announced Tuesday, that her “Make ‘Em Squeal” campaign, as it’s referred to on her website, will attempt to identify any “Washington expense, program or concept that has proven to be wasteful and must be cut.”

One of the agencies Ernst lists on her website is the Department of Defense (DoD). She claims the agency is spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer’s dollars on under-used and unneeded warehouses.

“There’s no excuse for hundreds of millions of dollars to go to waste for keeping underused and unneeded warehouses open. The Pentagon has asked Congress for the authority to rid themselves of some of these storage facilities, but they lack the authority to do it.”

Ernst also mentions an incident where the DoD used taxpayer money to purchase $30 million worth of electronic equipment manufactured by Chinese companies.

“Spending millions of taxpayer money on computers, printers, and other tech equipment with known cybersecurity risks just doesn’t make sense and threatens to undermine our national security,” said Ernst.

“That’s why I’m urging the Pentagon to pull the plug on these purchases, so we’re not only saving hard-earned tax dollars but standing up to cyberattacks from China, and other bad actors,” she added.

Ernst is also singling out the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for reportedly spending $1.3 million of taxpayer’s money on a study which involved having cats listen to classical music all day to see if it affected their behavior, reported IJR.com.

According to the Daily Caller, the senator is also introducing a bill in connection with the campaign, called the Stop Wasteful Advertising by the Government (SWAG).

“These costs come at the expense of real national priorities. The $1.4 billion spent on government PR and advertising every year, for example, is twice the amount dedicated to breast cancer research. It’s time to bag the swag,” she added.

Senate Lawmakers Hold Their Weekly Policy Luncheons
Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks to the media following their weekly policy luncheon in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 2019. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

According to a 2017 report (pdf) released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), around $1.5 billion per year is spent on public relations activities, carried out through advertising and public relations contracts and by public affairs employees.

Spending included $30,000 by NASA on a three-day “Martian extravaganza” event, $10,000 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a “Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide,” and $630,000 by the State Department on Fake Facebook followers to, allegedly, make them more visible on the social media platform.

In addition, GAO indicates that agencies spent upwards to $140,000 on trinkets and key chains, as well as $250,000 on mascot costumes.

“As an Iowa State Cyclone fan, I’ll be the first to say that mascots can be fun. But there is no justification for spending a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer money on mascots,” said Ernst.

The bill Ernst is trying to pass would require that agencies report their previous year’s spending when requesting their subsequent year’s budget.