Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has put together a March Madness-themed effort to publicize wasteful government spending. The lawmaker’s inaugural “Elite Eight of Waste,” tournament, which kicked off Thursday, gives Americans the chance to pick the most outrageous example of government spending from a lineup of worthy contenders.
“In an effort to highlight wasteful federal spending, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake today announced the inaugural Elite Eight of Waste Tournament. The two-week tournament will pit eight examples of wasteful federal spending against one another, allowing social media users to vote to advance the more egregious item, until a Champion of Waste is crowned on Tuesday, April 7, 2014,” the Senator’s office said in a statement.
The first lineup offered pits “O’care Hawkers”— $130,000 of taxpayer money given to the Baltimore Ravens to encourage Obamacare enrollment— against “Amtrak Free Riders”— $26,000 to provide up to 24 “creative professionals” with free train fare.
If you’re interested in playing, here’s how: “On the dates specified below, Sen. Flake will post each matchup of wasteful spending to his Facebook and Twitter (@JeffFlake) accounts. On Facebook, users can make their pick for the more egregious item in the comments section of Flake’s post. On Twitter, users can tweet their pick for the more egregious item using #8ofWaste. Votes will be tabulated within 24 hours of the initial posting, and the item receiving more votes will move on in the Elite Eight of Waste bracket.”
And the full lineup:
March 27, 2014
#1. O’Care Hawkers – The Baltimore Ravens inked a six-figure deal with the taxpayer-backed Maryland Health Connection to promote Obamacare. According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch, the Ravens – an NFL team valued at over $1 billion – agreed to accept the payment in exchange for promoting Obamacare on television, radio and online.
Taxpayer Cost: $130,000
Outlook: An easy favorite in a tournament where having no defense wins championships.
#4. Amtrak Free Riders – Amtrak – the recipient of nearly $1.5 billion in taxpayer funding in 2013 – will offer up to 24 “creative professionals” free round-trip train travel on an Amtrak long-distance routes. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that ending taxpayer subsidies to Amtrak would save nearly $15 billion between fiscal years 2014 and 2023.
Taxpayer Cost: $20,600
Outlook: Giving out free rides while getting one themselves could put this squad on track for an upset.
March 28, 2014
#1. Beltway Boozers – The federal government spent $1.3 million dollars on alcohol in 2013 according to a Washington Times analysis. That figure represents a fourfold increase from 2005’s $315,000 tab.
Taxpayer Cost: $1.3 million
Outlook: Cheers for this high-spirited team will not run dry.
#4. DOE Gas Guzzlers – According to an internal audit, the Department of Energy paid a costly premium to purchase alternative fuel vehicles at two agency centers that were found to have been routinely filled with regular gasoline.
Taxpayer Cost: $700,000
Outlook: Even if they run out of gas, this squad has a great chance to keep driving us into debt.
March 31, 2014
#2. Showy Staters – In the hours before the 2013 government shutdown, the State Department agreed to a five-year, multimillion dollar contract for the design and manufacture of high-end glass stemware. According to the Daily Mail, the contract was awarded to Simon Pearce, a Vermont stemware company that makes hand-blown crystal that retails for up to $85-per-wine glass.
Taxpayer Cost: $5 million
Outlook: Don’t expect this high flute’n bunch to crack under the early pressure.
#3. USDA Pizza Ruts – USDA recently spent $8,500 to study and publish a report on U.S. pizza consumption. According to Reason.com, the findings of the study are easily summed up as: “On a given day, about 13 percent of Americans eat pizza. Especially teenage boys.”
Taxpayer Cost: $8,500
Outlook: This hungry underdog doesn’t mind wasting away.
April 1, 2014
#2. Ghost Town Recons – The Department of Defense funded the construction of 64,000-square-foot headquarters building in Afghanistan that the U.S. military has no plans to use. The structure, built over the objection of commanders in Afghanistan prompted one two-star Army general to tell The Washington Post, “What the heck were they thinking? There was never any justification to build something this fancy.”
Taxpayer Cost: $34 million
Outlook: Opponents ought to be wary of this team’s “big three” – it’s a waste of time, money and space.
#3. EPA Hoarders – The Environmental Protection Agency is spent $1.5 million dollars in 2013 to store 18 million undistributed agency pamphlets, brochures and publications in one Ohio warehouse according to a Washington Times report.
Taxpayer Cost: $1.5 million
Outlook: There’s nothing green about this high-spending team.
Two takeaways from Flake’s effort: First, unlike President Barack Obama’s insulting effort to use March Madness to sell Obamacare, it isn’t targeted at low information voters. Secondly, it looks like Flake is a prime candidate to carry on Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) annual government “Wastebook” after Coburn’s resignation at the end of the current term.