Follow the Money: Bag the Swag

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      Bag the Swag

      In Follow the Money, gimmicky spending by federal agencies to promote themselves seems to have taken on some new twists and turns. It is part of the more than 1 billion dollars that federal agencies spend each year to promote themselves.

      Your tax money is being spend on mascots Owlie Skywarn and Sanctuary Sam, representing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

      And they aren’t the only ones.

      Four different programs at the Department of Agriculture each have their own mascot.

      The Natural Resources Conservation Service has Sammy Soil.

      The Agricultural Marketing Service uses Milkshake the Cow.

      Power Panther represents the Food and Nutrition service.

      And Thermy and Bac get paraded out by the Food Safety and Inspections Service.

      Senator Joni Ernst: Do we really need a physical mascot out there, you know, going to parades or what? I don't think that's appropriate.

      Senator Joni Ernst has introduced new legislation to try to end taxpayer funded projects used for propaganda. She tabulated the cost of custom-made costumes.

      Joni Ernst: Overall on mascots the federal government has spent over $250,000, a quarter of a million dollars, on mascots nobody can name or even identify. There are things we should be spending our dollars on, but not this. These mascots aren't memorable. People don't know who they are, what they're trying to teach us they don’t care about them and yet we continue to spend money on them.

      The CDC produced a zombie preparedness campaign including this $10,000 comic book and warning videos.

      Ernst says federal agencies also spent your money on lots of giveaways:

      $605,000 for coloring books,

      $60,000 on key chains,

      $33,000 for snuggie blankets,

      $17,000 for koozies to keep your drinks cold,

      And $16,000 for fidget spinners.

      Joni Ernst: A lot of waste. A lot of dollars just wrapped up in little gimmicks.

      Ernst’s proposal is called the “Swag Act.”

      Joni Ernst: The federal government has what I call mission creep, and we start to spend dollars on things that aren't really our mission as a federal government. We have gone through this year, after year, after year. An agency will develop a mascot. Nobody pays attention. The next agency will do that. They'll start spending dollars in areas they shouldn't be spending dollars. It's okay for one agency, so the next gets away with it. We've got to stop that. We've got to stop the wasteful spending.

      Among other things, the Swag Act would require federal agencies to disclose how much they spend on advertising and PR.