Justice Department Inspector General: There Were No $16 Muffins

You may recall last month when the Justice Department’s Inspector General released a report claiming that DOJ officials had been wasting money on outside seminars, including the now famous $16 muffins and $32 box of Cracker Jacks. While outrageous at first glance, the report didn’t really seem to stand up to scrutiny, and even the hotel responsible for the allegedly expensive muffins said that people were looking at the bill wrong. Now, the Inspector General that issued the report that started the ball, or muffin, rolling has retracted their claims:

WASHINGTON — The office of the Justice Department inspector general on Friday retracted its much publicized claim that the agency had spent $16 per breakfast muffin at a conference. And it expressed regret for the “significant negative publicity” for the department and for the hotel that hosted the meeting that resulted from the erroneous finding in a report last month.

The supposed “$16 muffins,” at a conference for immigration lawyers in August 2009, had been a highlight of the report, which blasted the Justice Department for “extravagant and potentially wasteful” spending on food at conferences at the end of the Bush administration and early in President Obama’s term.

The figure was cited in news accounts, including in The New York Times, and was much repeated on political shows.

But the department and the hotel, the Capital Hilton, said the cost of the breakfast had included not only muffins but also fruit, coffee, juice, taxes and a gratuity for the servers. It was also part of a package with the hotel that included “free” use of a ballroom and a dozen meeting rooms during the five-day conference.

In a new introduction to a revised report issued on Friday, the Office of the Inspector General said it had reviewed additional paperwork and now agreed that its conclusions “were incorrect and that the Department did not pay $16 per muffin.”

As I thought, it would seem that the explanation that Kevin Drum, and James Joyner, came up with when this started, which Hilton Hotels reinforced, is the real story of what happened here. However, one has to wonder if it matters. How many candidates for Congress will have something about the $16 muffins (that never existed) in their stump speeches next year? I’m guessing quite a few.

FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    That’s what you get when you focus on trivia. You lose the thread and forget the argument.

    The real story then was the increase in total conference budget. I highlighted that quote:

    The Justice Department spent $73.3 million on conferences in fiscal 2009, compared with $47.8 million a year earlier, according to the report.

    So, since there was no $16 muffin, we can forget about the near-doubling of conference spending. Gotcha.

  2. @john personna:

    And since the IG has withdrawn the entire report, that issue has been completely missed.

  3. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @john personna: Back in the bad old days, The New Republic refered to this phenomeno as TRB’s law of scandal:

    “Whenever there is outrageous behavior in government, the actual outrage is not the outrageous behavior, but what is permitted and accepted as normal.”