Feds throw money at alpaca poop, drug enforcement museum


BIG SPENDERS: U.S. Sen Tom Coburn’s 2014 Wastebook has some … interesting examples of federal spending.

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — It’s no surprise the federal government wastes tax dollars.

But where it wastes your hard-earned dollars can be a bit more shocking. Each year, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn compiles his much-anticipated “Wastebook,” detailing some of the most absurd and obscene examples of government spending.

Some of the highlights in this year’s $25 billion in questionable expenditures include $387,000 for Swedish massages for rabbits, $4.6 million for luxury homes for border patrol agents, $1 billion the Pentagon spent to destroy $16 billion in ammunition and $331,000 to study “hangry” spouses stabbing voodoo dolls.

With those sorts of spending sprees, it’s no wonder Gallup found Americans think the federal government wastes 51 cents of every tax dollar, the highest figure since Gallup began asking the question in 1979.

Not to worry. Some of those federal dollars made their way back to Virginia.

The federal government apparently spent taxpayer dough on a grant for alpaca poop, maintenance for the Drug Enforcement Agency’s museum — yes, that exists — and maintaining an unused lighthouse.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave Virginia Mary’s Alpaca LLC a $50,000 grant to process, package and market alpaca manure as plant fertilizer, according to the 2014 Wastebook. It’s sold commercially as “Poop Paks.” The company, based in The Plains, boasts it makes the “perfect poops,” Coburn’s book notes. They sell in packs of 20 for $29.95.

Not to be outdone, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spent $95,000 in 2014 alone on its little-known museum at its offices in Arlington, according to the 2014 Wastebook. The museum cautions the exhibit may not be appropriate for those under 10. But, the DEA has a Junior Special Agent program for those as young as third grade. Congress gave the museum $349,000 when it opened in 1999.

For the feds, keeping old lighthouses in ship-shape is more important than preventing fatal car crashes. In 2014, federal transportation officials took $160,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Moving Ahead for Progress program intended for preventing crashes and instead used it to help restore Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia Beach. The lighthouse — it’s said George Washington helped select the first keeper in the 1700s — is privately owned and operated by the nonprofit Preservation Virginia. About half-million federal transportation dollars have gone toward the lighthouse since 2002, according to Coburn’s book.

“Only someone with too much of someone else’s money and not enough accountability for how it was being spent could come up some of these projects,” Coburn said in a statement.

Read here for the full 2014 Wastebook.

Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be found on Twitter @kathrynw5.