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.