What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 20, 2013

Here, Read This - Quickly

From today's Tribune-Review:
The latest example of your federal government in action — a $222,000 renovation of the private bathroom of the U.S. secretary of the Interior. As reminds Atlanta‘s WSB-TV, which first reported the story, “that‘s more expensive than many homes.” The feds blame water leaks for the high cost of the project, done in 2007. Guess that‘s why the renovated loo also includes a $3,500 Sub-Zero fridge? Heck, we know plenty of contractors who would have done the job for, say, $150,000. [Bolding in original]
Given that this is the Trib editorial board and that they're no fans of the current administration and that they frame it by saying that this is "the latest example" - quick, when do you think the renovation occurred?

At my first reading, I thought the $222 grand was to correct (partially, of course) some bad plumbing done in 2007 and I suspect that's the Trib's intentional rhetorical smog at play.  They could have been clearer and pointed out what Atlanta's WSB-TV actually posted:
The upgrades to the bathroom happened in 2007. Internal auditors issued memos in 2009 about the renovations.

It took a Freedom of Information Act request and four more years for the details to come light.

[Channel 2's Scott] MacFarlane found the renovations were both approved and contracted by the government's official landlord, the General Services Administration.

A General Services Administration representative said the work happened before the current administration took over and said "greater oversight" is in place now to protect against waste in the future.
Yea - I wonder why Scaife's braintrust wasn't clearer about this story.

Perhaps, had they done their homework, they would have seen that this is not exactly a new story nor is it even close to what they said it was.  Take a look at this from the Washington Post in  9 January, 2009:
Does outgoing Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne need a $236,000 bathroom? Or is some of that money going down the drain?

That's what Interior Department investigators are determined to find out. Today, Inspector General Earl Devaney said his office has launched a probe into the bathroom project and "still have plenty of facts to flush out." (Pun intended.)

Kempthorne spent $236,000 in taxpayer funds renovating his office bathroom last fall, installing a new shower, a refrigerator and freezer and wainscot wood panelling, department officials say. Questions from The Post sparked the interest of the inspector general.

Shane Wolfe, a spokesman for Kempthorne's office, said the new 100-square-foot bathroom will replace an older washroom being removed to make way for an emergency stairwell. Aside from asbestos abatement and electrical and plumbing upgrades, the bathroom was constructed, in part, to preserve the office's "storied history," Wolfe said. At Interior, he said, "Preserving historic structures is part of what we do."
And this from McClatchy from a month and a half later:
The 100-square-foot bathroom, which has a shower, commode and refrigerator, is in the secretary's executive suite on the seventh floor of the building. Last month, the project raised eyebrows when the Washington Post reported it cost $236,000 to build and came with a refrigerator and monogrammed towels.

It turns out the fancy towels don't exist -- "that's absolutely false," said Donald Swain, chief of staff of the Interior Department's National Business Center. But the inspector general's office at the Interior Department continues to investigate the $236,000 project.

The department built the bathroom last year as part of an exhaustive 13-year renovation of the Interior Department's historic headquarters. The bathroom project came in $10,000 under budget, Swain said. Removing lead pipes and asbestos abatement drove up the cost, Swain said, as did careful stewardship of the historic building, built in 1935, and replete with hand-painted murals and custom wood paneling and tiles.
As Gertrude Stein once wrote, there is no there there.  But hey, I guess that's still not enough to stop Scaife's braintrust from using it as a subtle dig against Obama-era guv'ment waste.

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